Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 301
Richard Russo was born July 15, 1949, in Johnstown (and grew up in Gloversville), New York. Russo is considered by many to be the best contemporary writer of small-town American life. He is often compared to authors like Sinclair Lewis and Sherwood Anderson who also wrote about small towns of their generation. Some critics contend that Russo’s own early experiences in old, dying, industrial towns of New England have had a profound impact on his focused subjects.
So far, there has been only one exception to this theme of small-town life—Russo’s 1997 Straight Man about the life and tribulations of a college professor, which is what Russo was for a time.
Russo has enjoyed a lot of success with his works. His novel Nobody’s Fool (1993) was adapted to film and starred some of Hollywood’s best, including Paul Newman and Susan Sarandon. Russo co-authored the film adaptation of this novel. He has also written other scripts both for film and television, including the 1998 film Twilight, the 2000 teleplay Flamingo Rising, and the 2005 HBO production Ice Harvest. But Russo’s greatest accomplishment, as far as critics are concerned, was his 2001 novel Empire Falls, which won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Empire Falls is typical Russo, a story about a family in small-town Maine.
Other books that Russo has written include Mohawk (1986) and The Risk Pool (1988), a coming-of-age story also set in a dying blue-collar New England town. In 2002, Russo published a collection of short stories called The Whore’s Child and Other Stories.
Russo lives in Maine with his wife and two daughters. He used to teach at Penn State University at Altoona, the University of Southern Illinois, Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and Colby College in Waterville, Maine. Russo has retired from academia to focus his time and energy on his writing.
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