"I've written a lot about destiny in my fiction," admits Richard Russo, "not because I understand it, but because I'd like to." In the first of these eleven remarkable essays, Russo shares the story of his onetime fiction workshop classmate who, of the two of them, was considered the class star, bound for literary glory. Yet it was Russo who emerged as a major writer. How, he wonders, did he manage to steal his classmate's destiny? What twists of talent and fate determine a would-be writer's path?In each of the pieces collected here, Russo considers the unexpected turns of the creative life. From his grandfather's years cutting gloves to his own teenage dreams of rock stardom; from his first college teaching jobs to his dazzling reads of Dickens and Twain; from the roots of his famous novels to his journey accompanying a dear friend--the writer Jennifer Finney Boylan--as she pursued gender reassignment surgery, The Destiny Thief powerfully reveals the inner workings of one of America's most beloved authors. With Two New Essays
After eight commanding works of fiction, the Pulitzer Prize winner now turns to memoir in a hilarious, moving, and always surprising account of his life, his parents, and the upstate New York town they all struggled variously to escape.
Anyone familiar with Richard Russo's acclaimed novels will recognize Gloversville once famous for producing that eponymous product and anything else made of leather. This is where the author grew up, the only son of an aspirant mother and a charming, feckless father who were born into this close-knit community. But by the time of his childhood in the 1950s, prosperity was inexorably being replaced by poverty and illness (often tannery-related), with everyone barely scraping by under a very low horizon.
A world elsewhere was the dream his mother instilled in Rick, and strived for herself, and their subsequent adventures and tribulations in achieving that goal--beautifully recounted here--were to prove lifelong, as would Gloversville's fearsome grasp on them both. Fraught with the timeless dynamic of going home again, encompassing hopes and fears and the relentless tides of familial and individual complications, this story is arresting, comic, heartbreaking, and truly beautiful, an immediate classic.
For Griffin, all paths, all memories, converge at Cape Cod. The Cape is where he took his childhood summer vacations, where he and his wife, Joy, honeymooned, where they decided he'd leave his LA screenwriting job to become a college professor, and where they celebrated the marriage of their daughter Laura's best friend. But when their beloved Laura's wedding takes place a year later, Griffin is caught between chauffeuring his mother's and father's ashes in two urns and contending with Joy and her large, unruly family. Both he and she have also brought dates along. How in the world could this have happened?By turns hilarious, rueful, and uplifting, That Old Cape Magic is a profoundly involving novel about marriage, family, and all the other ties that bind.
The characters in these four expansive stories are a departure from the blue-collar denizens that populate so many of Richard Russo's novels; and all are bound together by parallel moments of reckoning with their pasts. In "Horseman," a young professor confronts an undergraduate plagiarist--as well as her own regrets. In "Intervention," a realtor facing a serious medical prognosis finds himself in his late father's shadow. "Voice" gives us a semiretired academic who is conned by his estranged brother into joining a group tour of the Venice Biennale. And "Milton and Marcus" takes us into a lapsed novelist's attempt to rekindle his screenwriting career--a career that depends wholly, at a crucial moment, on two Hollywood icons (one living, one dead). Shot through with Russo's inimitable humor, wisdom, and surprise, Trajectory is the work of a masterful writer continuing to discover new heights.