Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery






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Monday, January 28, 2008


The Shock of Recognition

Ever identify with all of a fictional character's negative traits, thus depressing the living shit out of yourself for absolutely no good reason? Yeah, me neither.

No, actually, I just finished the newest novel by Richard Russo, he of Nobody's Fool and Empire Falls fame. I've read all of his stuff at least a couple times and was utterly stoked when my wife got me his 2007 novel, Bridge of Sighs for Christmas.

Russo has a lot in common with John Irving, with whom, I believe, he studied at least briefly. (God knows I could be completely wrong here, but I think Russo took a workshop from Irving, possibly in Iowa(?).) Anyway, like Irving, most of Russo's novels tend to take place in one general geographical region (upstate New York). Also like Irving, Russo's first couple of novels ended up being--sort of, in a way, in my opinion--warm-ups for his break-out. He reuses a lot of the same themes and you can clearly recognize echoes of previous characters in subsequent books.

Let me be clear here when I say that this is not a criticism. I love all of his stuff and I think it's perfectly valid for a writer to use his own sort of archetypal characters to explore different sorts of ideas springing out of similar themes.

Anyway, Bridge of Sighs is told from multiple perspectives, including a first person account by one Lou "Lucy" Lynch. As a kid, Lucy comes across as whiny and needy and just basically scared of life. And of course it reminded me of the worst aspects of myself at that age. And then, when the book goes on to explore the notion that we often have no free will and are doomed to repeat our mistakes, learning nothing from them, I got even more depressed as I reflected on all the various and sundry times I've done the same stupid shit over and over and over. It sucks to be confronted with the worst of yourself, doesn't it?

God, I loved this book.