Depending on how things went on Tuesday (we'll go to press long before the results are in), the premise for Tom Perrotta's 2011 book, The Leftovers (St. Martin's Press), may become more or less appealing: a Rapture-like scenario in which millions of people suddenly vanish from all over the world. Set three years after this giant disappearance, Perrotta's novel — which is now being adapted into an HBO series by Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof — explores the quotidian life of survivors, left mystified by a game-changing, inexplicable event they call the Sudden Departure.
The residents of suburban Mapleton (suburbia has always been Perrotta's prose playground) are ordinary people who just want to heal and reestablish some sense of normalcy. Seeking understanding, they begin (not surprisingly) to break into factions. How would you deal with the Rapture, if you were left behind? You could party down, like Perrotta's Barefoot People, or perhaps you'd be susceptible to darker, more malevolent forces, like the cultish Guilty Remnant. Perrotta reminds us that when the unthinkable happens, we sometimes become unthinkable versions of ourselves.
In keeping with its commitment to bringing accomplished, "super-famous" writers to Portland (past visitors have included Dave Eggers, Susan Orlean, and Elizabeth Gilbert), the Telling Room will host Perrotta at SPACE Gallery on Thursday, November 15. The successful author of books such as Election, Little Children (both of which were also translated to film), and The Abstinence Teacher "is one of those writers who speaks to a wide range of readers in his portrayal of modern people in modern dilemmas, whether on the page or on film," says Melissa Coleman, Telling Room board member and author of the New York Times bestselling This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undone (Harper Collins). "The wry humor he brings to otherwise hopeless situations allows us to live more easily with ourselves."
This year, the Telling Room officially declared its "Super Famous Writers Series," says TR communications director Andrew Griswold, "to capture the sense of awe [that] aspiring writers feel when they meet these folks and are able to learn from them first hand." Among those he says are likely to appreciate Perrotta's visit: "Working writers, burgeoning writers, beginners, dabblers, fans of fiction, science fiction, dark comedy, film, television, and those who wish to be inspired by someone who's found great success doing what he loves."
Or someone who, in a post-election stupor, needs some reassurance that when the Rapture comes, to be among the leftovers might be just fine.
TOM PERROTTA | November 15 @ 7 pm | at SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St, Portland | Free | space538.org