Lately I’ve been enjoying Richard Russo’s new novel “Everybody’s Fool”. I first encountered Russo’s work over twenty years ago, when I checked out a novel called “Nobody’s Fool” from the Edina library in Knox County, Missouri. I was delighted with the novel, a character-driven story of flawed but likable ne’er-do-well people in a languishing small town in upstate New York. I was reminded of Anne Tyler’s novels of eccentric inhabitants of Baltimore.
When “Nobody’s Fool” was published I was about forty years old. The main character in the novel is Sully, who was sixty during the events of the novel. To me at that time, Sully was an old man, and his exploits as recounted in the novel I saw as a sort of cautionary tale — I didn’t want to end up with such a fate!
Now I’m sixty-two, while in Russo’s fictional universe Sully has only aged ten years. Sully at seventy is much the same as he was at forty, while I can only hope that during the intervening twenty years I’ve learned more than he has!
Richard Russo, like Raymond Chandler, Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy, and Elmore Leonard, is a master of writing true-to-life dialogue, a skill which is more difficult than it looks. I learned this years ago when I worked the overnight shift at a convenience store in Hannibal, Missouri. During the wee hours I would have these great conversations with down-and-out night folks, and the next morning I would try to transcribe the conversations and present them in my blog, an ancestor of this one. I would jot down brief notes after the customer left, but turning these notes into readable and concise written dialogue was not easy. But it was fun!
“Nobody’s Fool” was made into a movie starring Paul Newman back in the early nineties. It’s a good movie, but, as is true most of the time, not as good as the novel.