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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Yesterday (The Boss & Elmore) & Today (Richard)

Richard Russo has been a favorite novelist since I read "Empire Falls" soon after its 2001 release. He is a top notch old-fashioned storyteller, has a pitch perfect ear for dialogue, and his deep affection for his world weary characters is refreshing given the reflexive cynicism and distancing irony of many of his contemporaries.

Russo's new collection of short non-fiction - "The Destiny Thief" - is a worthy companion to all of his earlier work. Aside from the eponymous essay (with that killer metaphor) introducing the book, each of the other eight pieces on "writing, writers, and life" has something to recommend it. I derived the most personal benefit from "Getting Good", re the value of tenacity. While reading "Imagining Jenny" I felt something shift in me as Russo describes a dear friend undergoing gender reassignment. And I was deeply moved hearing about Russo's admiration of Bruce Springsteen's music in "The Boss In Bulgaria".

Russo calls Bruce "the greatest singing storyteller of his generation." Normally, hyperbole like that is a turnoff to me. But when Russo writes "...it was Springsteen's voice that helped a weary nation through the bitter end of the Vietnam War, the AIDS epidemic, and the attack on the World Trade Center", it was hard for me to deny the impact "Born In The USA", "Streets Of Philadelphia", and "The  Rising" had on me and on the public conversation. Though Springsteen's music occupied me more in my rock n' roll years than it does now, a later song of his like "41 Shots" shows he's still got the goods. Springsteen was an earlier-in-life musical passion for me - much like Elmore Leonard was more about my reading tastes in my 30's - but Russo's continuing unapologetic love for these two giants in their respective fields is convincing and contagious. Thanks for the reminders, Richard.

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