Understanding Richard Russo
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In Understanding Richard Russo Kathleen Drowne explores the significant themes and techniques in Richard Russo's seven novels, one memoir, and two short story collections, including the 2002 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Empire Falls. Known for assembling large casts of eccentric characters and developing sweeping multigenerational storylines, Russo brings to life the hard-hit rural manufacturing towns of the Northeast as he explores the bewildering, painful complexities of family relationships. Drowne first recounts Russo's biography, then explores his novels chronologically, and concludes with a chapter dedicated to his shorter fiction and nonfiction. As Drowne invites readers to appreciate more fully this accomplished chronicler of American small towns, she shows how the empathy that Russo creates for his protagonists is amplified by the careful detail with which he realizes their worlds.

In her approaches to Mohawk, The Risk Pool, Nobody's Fool, Empire Falls, and Bridge of Sighs, Drowne traces the primary recurring concern of Russo's work: the plight of deteriorating rural communities and the dramatic impact of that decline on their blue-collar inhabitants and families. Russo's characters have jobs, not careers, and Russo's family relationships are not just nuclear, but multigenerational. Drowne shows that in such a web of powerlessness and attachment Russo explores relationships between emotionally scarred sons and their abusive, absent, or neglectful fathers as well as the frustrated relationships with mothers who yearn for their sons to turn out differently than their fathers.

Drowne also highlights Russo's talent for realistic but highly eccentric characters—worn-out construction workers and odd-jobbers, barflies, has-beens, and ne'er-do-wells—whose lives are emblematic of both the dignity and the desperation of crumbling Rust Belt towns. And out of his melancholic surroundings and struggling characters, Drowne shows how Russo consistently reveals a remarkable, literate humor. Her study offers readers an insightful point of entry into one of America's finest contemporary comic writers, a so-called bard of the working class and a chronicler of small-town America.



Publié par
Date de parution 21 juillet 2014
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781611174038
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,2100€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Matthew J. Bruccoli, Founding Editor
Linda Wagner-Martin, Series Editor
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The University of South Carolina Press
2014 University of South Carolina
Published by the University of South Carolina Press
Columbia, South Carolina 29208
23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Drowne, Kathleen Morgan.
Understanding Richard Russo / Kathleen Drowne.
pages cm. - (Understanding contemporary American literature)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-61117-402-1 (hardbound : alk. paper) - ISBN 978-1-61117-403-8 (ebook) 1. Russo, Richard, 1949- -Interpretation and criticism. 2. Russo, Richard, 1949- -Biography. 3. Working class in literature. I. Title.
PS3568.U812Z58 2014
813 .54-dc23
For Patrick, Genevieve, and William
Series Editor s Preface
Chapter 1 Understanding Richard Russo
Chapter 2 Mohawk
Chapter 3 The Risk Pool
Chapter 4 Nobody s Fool
Chapter 5 Straight Man
Chapter 6 Empire Falls
Chapter 7 Bridge of Sighs
Chapter 8 That Old Cape Magic
Chapter 9 Other Works
Selected Bibliography
The Understanding Contemporary American Literature series was founded by the estimable Matthew J. Bruccoli (1931-2008), who envisioned these volumes as guides or companions for students as well as good nonacademic readers, a legacy that will continue as new volumes are developed to fill in gaps among the nearly one hundred series volumes published to date and to embrace a host of new writers only now making their marks on our literature.
As Professor Bruccoli explained in his preface to the volumes he edited, because much influential contemporary literature makes special demands, the word understanding in the titles was chosen deliberately. Many willing readers lack an adequate understanding of how contemporary literature works; that is, of what the author is attempting to express and the means by which it is conveyed. Aimed at fostering this understanding of good literature and good writers, the criticism and analyses in the series provide instruction in how to read certain contemporary writers-explicating their material, language, structures, themes, and perspectives-and facilitate a more profitable experience of the works under discussion.
In the twenty-first century Professor Bruccoli s prescience gives us an avenue to publish expert critiques of significant contemporary American writing. The series continues to map the literary landscape and to provide both instruction and enjoyment. Future volumes will seek to introduce new voices alongside canonized favorites, to chronicle the changing literature of our times, and to remain, as Professor Bruccoli conceived, contemporary in the best sense of the word.
Linda Wagner-Martin, Series Editor
I would like to thank several people whose assistance made this book possible. The librarians at the Curtis Laws Wilson Library at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, especially Dawn Mick, Marsha Fuller, and June Snell, cheerfully helped me acquire dozens of items that contributed to this work. My research assistant, Samantha Dean, tracked down many interviews with Richard Russo that I might not have been able to find otherwise. Dr. Kristine Swenson, my department chair and a good friend, was supportive and unfailingly optimistic throughout the process. Linda Wagner-Martin was infinitely more patient with me than I deserved.
Richard Russo was kind enough to answer my questions and offer his support of the project, and he sent me a very helpful advance copy of Elsewhere . I am grateful for his generosity and hope that he continues to produce his poignant, honest, big-hearted novels for many years to come.
Most of all I thank-and am thankful for-Patrick, Genevieve, and William, who have supported and encouraged my work from the very beginning. Only they know how much I owe them, and only I know how much they have blessed my life.
Understanding Richard Russo
The thing that I would say about literature in general, the thing that I love most about it, is that when I m in the world of a gifted writer I m able to see that world through that writer s eyes, not my own.
-Richard Russo, interview with Robert Birnbaum, Identity Theory
In the introduction to The Story Behind the Story (2004), an anthology of short fiction that includes authors explanations of how their stories came about, Richard Russo recalls the countless times he has been asked if he thinks writing can be taught or if writers are just born this way. 1 Such questioners, Russo posits, seem to be asking if some innate difference separates writers from nonwriters or if we all start out essentially the same. Russo responds to this question with a bit of a dodge: The unsatisfactory truth of the matter-and most readers suspect this-is that we re both the same and different (10). Perhaps fittingly, this paradoxical concept of being simultaneously the same and different pervades Russo s body of work at many levels, particularly concerning his position as a successful writer doggedly reckoning with his experiences growing up in the small industrial town of Gloversville, New York. In many ways Russo is the same as the men and women who live and work in the circumscribed environment of a Rust Belt factory town, struggling to support their families and build satisfying lives; he was raised among leather workers and understands intimately the frustrations and joys of life in a close-knit, dead-end community. Yet he is also undeniably different. As a young man, Russo fled Gloversville for college in Arizona, rarely returning after his graduation, and created for himself a life indelibly colored by his past but not exclusively defined by it. He can write about small-town, working-class men and women in fictional towns such as Mohawk, North Bath, Empire Falls, and Thomaston because he knows, authentically, what their lives are like. At the same time, his many years away from Gloversville, living and working in college towns all over the United States, give him a personal and narrative perspective that is undeniably different from those of the folks he left behind. He is truly both the same and different from the people who filled his childhood and who populate his novels.
James Richard Russo was born in Johnstown, New York, on July 15, 1949, the only child of James W. Jimmy Russo and Jean Findlay (LeVarn) Russo. He grew up in the nearby town of Gloversville, which was known during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for its production of fine leather goods, particularly gloves. Russo s maternal grandfather was a glove cutter who moved to Gloversville from Vermont, and his paternal grandfather, a shoemaker in Italy, immigrated to Gloversville in order to join the industrial boom that the town was then enjoying, but unfortunately would not enjoy for much longer. Russo s father, a World War II army veteran, worked part-time as a glove cutter until he was laid off. He began drinking heavily and left his family when his son was very young; from that point he made his living working on road construction crews. 2 Russo s mother worked first as a telephone operator and then at General Electric s computer room in Schenectady, an hour s commute from Gloversville, loading and unloading large wheel-like tape drives onto a computer the size of a bus. 3 As a single mother, Jean Russo attempted to maintain a certain level of independence, but she did rely heavily on her parents and then, later, on her son for both fina

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