Richard Russo knows small town America. This masterful novelist has an uncanny sense of the way life works in the gritty industrial towns of the American Northeast. From the gossip and the resentments to the people and the cafes, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Richard Russo chronicles blue-collar America in ways constantly surprising and utterly revealing.
Russo's previous works include seven novels and one collection of short stories. His 2001 novel, Empire Falls, won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It was also adapted into an HBO mini-series, starring Paul Newman, Ed Harris, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Helen Hunt. His latest book, Elsewhere, came out in 2012.
Russo earned a bachelor's degree, a master's in fine arts, and a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona. He has two daughters and lives with his wife in Camden, Maine.
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A Conversation with Richard Russo author of Empire Falls
Was there a particular event or image that sparked Empire Falls?
When I finish a novel, it's hard to go back and try to reconstruct its beginnings. It's a little like an interrogation: what did you know and when did you know it? Here are a couple of things, though. When I was living in Waterville, Maine, some years ago, a factory closed down that had employed a large number of women who had been sewing famous-label men's dress shirts for much of their lives. They'd done everything they could to save their jobs and the factory, but the multi-national company that owned it shut them down anyway. That struck me as a story that was playing out all over the country, if not the world. From the beginning of my writing career, I've always been interested in ordinary people swept up in economic and political forces they can't begin to comprehend, as well as in the changing face of American labor. Becoming a writer has only deepened my sympathies for working people, who are always, it seems to me, the first to be sold out.
The other event that had burrowed deep was the school shooting in Paducah, especially the question it begged: how ...
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