Characters And Dialogue

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.


This entry was posted in Books.

3 comments on “Characters And Dialogue

  1. Uncle John says:

    I have read about half of “Everybody’s Fool”. Russo does a great job of developing odd characters and has quite an imagination: including cemetery scenes, snakes, walls falling, junk collecting. Sully hasn’t changed. I can picture Paul Newman playing the part.

  2. Leslie says:

    One of my favorite Richard Russo’s novels is Bridge if Sighs. Also have his Interventions collection. I enjoyed your article, Larry, and your comparisons – I never thought to compare them to Anne Tyler’s novels (my all-time favorite author is forced to choose). Interesting. I’ll have to check out Everybody’s Fool. Nobody’s Foolwas great.
    Empire Falls as well.

  3. Dad says:

    Good to see your blog spring back to life. I probably ought to do the same to the Orlop.

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