Beyond the Book
- Louis Menand in the
points out that Bridge of Sighs is structured like Joyce's Ulysses.
Lucy Lynch is Leopold Bloom's counterpart, "canny and naïve in equal parts,
a plodder and a dreamer." Sarah resembles Molly Bloom, "the clever and
worldly wife" who outstrips her husband. Noonan is like Stephen Dedalus,
"the angry boy who flies by the nets, going into exile and becoming an
artist." Thomaston, then, is Russo's Dublin, as if he is elevating the
blighted American small town as a subject worthy of highbrow literature.
- Richard Russo grew up in Gloversville, a factory town in upstate New
York whose tannery made gloves (of course) from the nineteenth century until
the middle of the twentieth century when production moved overseas. Russo
has made a distinguished literary career from his depictions of such towns,
stemming from his personal experience. Though the struggles that each town
faces are differentacademic foibles in a college town in Pennsylvania in
Straight Man, the inexorable decline of the family who owns the failing
logging and textile mills in the Maine village of Empire Falls, the
closing of the tannery and its continued pollution of the local river in
Bridge of SighsRusso has said, "Really, what I am writing about in all
of these is, class and work."
- Russo's writing regimen is similarly rooted in the notion of home and
place. In an extensive interview at
identitytheory.com following the publication of
The Whore's Child and Other Stories (2002) he explains, "I can write on the road, but I can't draft a novel on the road. I
could revise a novel on the road. I can write screen work, essays, I can
write introductions. Non-fiction is easy to write on the road, on rare
occasions when I do that. I can do all those kinds of things but there is
something different about drafting a novel that requires me to work at the
same time each day. I need to work in the morning, every morning, 6 or 7
days a week. I need that kind of routine to slip back into. I need to pick
up right where I left off. I hate to miss a day. I need reliable blocks of
More about Russo including excerpts and reviews from The Whore's Child,
Empire Falls and Bridge of Sighs at
This article was originally published in November 2007, and has been updated for the
September 2008 paperback release.
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