The Destiny Thief is a collection of essays (9) on writing, writers, and life by Richard Russo. Readers may recognize Russo, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for Empire Falls and also wrote Nobody’s Fool and the follow-up Everybody’s Fool, Mohawk, The Risk Pool, Straight Man, The Whore’s Child, and That Old Cape Magic, but for those who have not read his works, the best way to describe Russo’s books is to say they are authentic, real, and so well written. So how did he do it? By living the life he was meant to live. Read more
I’m so tired of being everybody’s fool.
Twenty-three years ago, a wonderful book entitled Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo was published. Set in upstate New York in a small town called North Bath (thinly veiled and thought to be Schuylerville) adjacent to Schuyler Springs (again, thinly veiled and thought to be Saratoga Springs), the story revolved around Donald “Sully” Sullivan – a middle-aged, stubborn and cantankerous man who chose to be faithful only to his nature – independent and undependable – and yet Sully was a good guy. At the end of each day, his destination of choice was a bar stool in the local watering hole where he gave as good as he got. Although Sully was a neglectful husband and father, he had an abundance of charm and wit which endeared him to many, especially readers. Read more
In youth we believe what the young believe, that life is all choice….To see a life back to front, as everyone begins to do in middle age, is to strip it of its mystery and wrap it in inevitability, drama’s enemy.
Richard Russo, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls wrote the Bridge of Sighs nearly a decade ago although the book is timeless in the classic Russo style of writing about life in a small town in upstate New York. A 640-page novel divided into 24 chapters (of which 23 are named), the Bridge of Sighs is primarily the story of Louis C. Lynch (also known as Lucy), a 60-year old business owner who has lived his whole life in Thomaston, New York – a small industrial town described as a trifecta of “stupidity, ignorance, and violence” and not unlike the real Johnston or Gloversville in New York which were known for their tanneries and glove making industries. Read more
People are fond of saying that the truth will make you free. But what happens when the truth is not one simple, brutal thing?
Personal memoirs about growing up with less than suitable parents, and particularly mothers – provide readers a glimpse into a world that managed to produce some of the most talented contemporary writers in this country while supporting the argument that nature wins over nurture but not without the long-lasting effects of childhood. Read more
A false note at the beginning was much more costly than one nearer the end because early errors were part of the foundation.
58-year old, Jack Griffin is a grumpy former screenwriter turned college professor who “has been trying for a long time to understand and resolve his almost pathological resentment towards his deceased parents.” The only child of two Ivy-League educated parents who spent their lives teaching at a college in the “mid-fucking-west,” Griffin has spent his entire life trying to get away from his parents to no avail. They occupy his thought process and influence his opinions even though they’ve been reduced to ashes in urns stored in the trunk of his car. Read more
Readers often ask me who my favorite writers are and although the question is tantamount to asking what my favorite foods are (there are many; where should I start?), I usually answer “Jonathan Franzan, John Irving, and Richard Russo” because the trio represents an elite group of writers whose prose never fails to keep my interest. Each author has his own writing style but they all share the traits of great writers – sentence fluency, character depth, memorable word choice, and an interesting story to tell. Read more
Reading was not a duty but a reward, and from that I intuited a vital truth: most people are trapped in a solitary existence, a life circumscribed by want and failures of imagination, limitations from which readers are exempt. You can’t make a writer without first making a reader, and that’s what my mother made me.
Those are the written words of Richard Russo, the Pulitzer prize-winning author of Empire Falls and most recently Elsewhere – a memoir of his life as the son of Jean Russo – a woman he credits with directing his life into a field where being “obsessive, dogged, and rigid” are assets rather than liabilities. Read more