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Writing Essays For Fun
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"As a whole, the book is a quest to understand nothing less than why life turns out the way it does . . . He weaves scenes from [his] destiny-swapping years—the gut-punching failures; the life of teaching that enabled the life of writing—with literary long takes, illuminating a winding road trip . . . Perhaps what's most admirable about these essays is their genial and searching tone. In this know-it-all age Russo places his faith in the ideals of art—ambiguity, paradox, heresy, the sublime—over the black-and-white ideologies or our current politics."—Jay Fielden, New York Times Book Review
"A heartfelt exploration of [Russo's] life as a writer."—Chelsea Adelaine Hassler, POPSUGAR “20 Best New Books to Read in May”
"Readers who come to this book in search of the storyteller they know from Russo's fiction will be well-rewarded. . . . [He] proves to be a familiar presence—thoughtful, funny, endearing—and surprising, as well. . . . Russo delivers the cozy intelligence and comic savvy that readers have come to admire."—Joan Silverman, Portland Press Herald
"A remarkable and insightful exploration into the mind of a wonderful writer."—Stuart Shiffman, Book Reporter
"All-encompassing. . . . Anyone in search of an eye-opening series of essays by a distinguished writer about writing and the writing life need look no further.”—Robert Allen Papinchak, The National Book Review
"Captivating . . . generous-hearted essays on writing and life [that] fully display Russo’s trademark warmth and wit, and are marked by a fair dose of unpretentious wisdom and a genuineness that sometimes borders on self-effacement. . . . The Destiny Thief puzzles with the mysteries of what good writing is and what good living is."—Robert Weibezahl, BookPage
"Splendid. . . . These are wise, personal pieces, and readers get to know the author as a comforting, funny, and welcoming guy."—Kirkus
"Certain to please anyone familiar with his short fiction and novels. . . . The unselfconscious voice threading through these nine explorations of writing, writers, and everyday life is a welcome alternative to the all-too-common introspection and fraught ‘literariness’ found in many recent memoir and essay collections from prominent authors. Readers seeking a deeply insightful record of the creative process and the life guiding it will find resonance here."—Library Journal (starred)
"For aspiring writers, Russo's musings on the art and craft of the novel are a trove of knowledge and guidance. For adoring readers, they are a window into the imagination and inspiration for Russo’s beloved novels, screenplays, and short stories. . . . Few authors seem as approachable in print and, one suspects, in person as acclaimed novelist Russo."—Booklist
"Russo’s colorful book offers his novel’s fans more of his dazzling and moving writing, often revealing glimpses of forces that drive a bestselling fiction writer."—Publishers Weekly
About the Author
RICHARD RUSSO is the author of eight novels, most recently Everybody's Fool and That Old Cape Magic; two collections of stories, with Trajectory published in 2017; and the memoir Elsewhere. In 2002 he received the Pulitzer Prize for Empire Falls, which like Nobody's Fool was adapted to film, in a multiple-award-winning HBO miniseries; in 2016 he was given the Indie Champion Award by the American Booksellers Association; and in 2017 he received France's Grand Prix de Littérature Américaine. He lives in Portland, Maine.
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1. Diehard Richard Russo fans: You know who you are. I am one, too. He wrote it. You read it. Enough said.
2. Aspiring novelists: His advice and recollections of his own fitful start in creative writing is a must-read for anyone who is seriously considering a career as a fiction writer, especially undergrads and 20-somethings. In addition to lots of inspiration, Russo provides a behind-the-scenes look at the book-writing profession, including how difficult it is to get a big publisher to notice your work.
This is quite an eclectic collection of essays.
• There are some that function almost as a memoir but then morph into something else, typically praise and criticism for the publishing industry.
• There is a fascinating essay on Russo's reaction to and involvement with a close male friend as he had transgender surgery.
• His commencement address to the Colby College graduating class of 2004 is so good that it alone is worth the price of the book.
• One essay is almost a graduate seminar in writing point of view—which one to choose and why.
• Two others on Charles Dickens and Mark Twain, both great influences on Russo, made me want to read "Bleak House" or "Huck Finn" all over again.
It's always fun to open the curtain and see a favorite author working his magic. That's what this book was for me.
Russo’s long career as a writer of fiction serves him well here; while his topics are serious, they are told with humor, down-to-earth humility, and his typical gift of storytelling. I just loved this and would highly recommend it.