Richard Russo Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Although Richard Russo (REWS-oh) has published a number of short stories in various journals, he has always been primarily a novelist. In addition to his novels, he has written a variety of screenplays, most notably the neo-noir film Twilight (1998), cowritten with director Robert Benton; the film stars Paul Newman, Gene Hackman, and Susan Sarandon, among others. He also adapted author Scott Phillips’s crime novel The Ice Harvest with Benton; the film, directed by Harold Ramis, was released in 2005. That same year, Russo wrote an adaptation of his own novel Empire Falls for a television miniseries that aired on the cable network HBO. In 2001 he contributed an introduction to The Collected Stories of Richard Yates. He has published one book of short stories, The Whore’s Child, and Other Stories (2002).


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Before he found success as a novelist, Richard Russo earned a fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council of Arts in 1983. In 1989, while living in Illinois, he received the annual prize from the Society of Midland Authors, awarded each year to a single author from one of twelve midwestern states, for The Risk Pool. Although it never earned any awards, his novel Nobody’s Fool was met with unanimous critical acclaim and had healthy sales; the success of the film adaptation (written and directed by Robert Benton and released in 1994) helped solidify Russo’s career, and some critics think that the Pulitzer Prize he received some years later could have been awarded to Nobody’s Fool. Straight Man was also exceptionally well received and earned excellent notices. Empire Falls was named one of the Best Books of 2001 by Library Journal and earned the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

McConkey, James. “Life with Father and Son.” Washington Post Book World, November, 1988. Discusses The Risk Pool in the context of upstate New York cities such as Russo’s own Gloversville.

McCulloch, Jamie. “Creating the Rogue Hero: Literary Devices in the Picaresque Novels of Martin Amis, Richard Russo, Michael Chabon, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Steve Tesich.” International Fiction Review 34, nos. 1/2 (January, 2007): 13-26. Presents a detailed consideration of humor in contemporary fiction. Discussion of Russo’s work focuses particularly on Straight Man.

Menand, Louis. “Upstate.” Review of Bridge of Sighs, by Richard Russo. The New Yorker, October 15, 2007. Analytical review considers Russo’s use of small industrial towns in the American Northeast in comparison to the use of Dublin by Irish writer James Joyce.

Montrose, David. “Fightin’ an’ Feudin’.” The Times Literary Supplement, March 6, 1987. Insightful discussion addresses the themes appearing early in Russo’s career that will prove to be hallmarks of his fiction.

Proulx, E. Annie. “What It Takes to Endure the Lost, Stubborn Citizens of Richard Russo’s Upstate New York.” Chicago Tribune Books, May 30, 1993. Novelist Proulx discusses Nobody’s Fool and focuses in particular on Russo’s recurring use of troubled father-son relationships.

Russo, Richard. “How ’I’ Moved Heaven and Earth.” The New York Times Magazine, October 17, 1999. The author discusses the genesis of Straight Man and the general role of art—and literature—in humankind’s attempts to make sense of the universe.

Smith, Wendy. “Richard Russo: The Novelist Again Explores the Crucial Impact of Place on Individual Destinies.” Publishers Weekly, June 7, 1993. Provides an overview of Russo’s fiction and discusses the autobiographical context of his early novels.