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Richard Russo (born July 15 1949 in Johnstown, New York) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist. Born in Johnstown and raised in nearby Gloversville, he earned a Bachelor's degree, a Master of Fine Arts degree, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Arizona, which he attended from 1967 through 1979.[1] He was teaching in the English department at Southern Illinois University Carbondale when his first novel, Mohawk was published. Much of his work has been semi-autobiographical, from his upbringing in upstate New York to his time teaching Literature at Colby College. He now lives and writes in Camden, Maine.

His novel Empire Falls, published in 2001, won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He has written five other novels: Mohawk, The Risk Pool, Nobody's Fool, Straight Man, and Bridge of Sighs, as well as a short story collection, The Whore's Child. Russo co-wrote the 1998 film Twilight with director Robert Benton, who also adapted and directed Russo's Nobody's Fool into a 1994 film of the same name, starring Paul Newman. Russo wrote the teleplay for the HBO adaptation of Empire Falls, the screenplay for the 2005 film Ice Harvest and the screenplay for the 2005 Niall Johnson film Keeping Mum, which starred Rowan Atkinson. Russo's novel, Bridge of Sighs, was released on 25 September 2007 and Random House released his most recent novel, That Old Cape Magic, on 4 August 2009.

Russo is now retired from the faculty of Colby College.[2]


External links


  1. ^ 2001 interview with Robert Birnbaum, published in identity theory, an online magazine
  2. ^ ""Richard Russo"". New York State Writers Institute, State University of New York. 2002. Retrieved 2007-03-20.  


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

In the end, the comic’s best trick is the illusion that comedy is effortless.

Richard Russo (born July 15, 1949, in Johnstown, New York) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist. His novel Empire Falls, published in 2001, won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.


  • At the risk of appearing disingenuous, I don’t really think of myself as "writing humor." I’m simply reporting on the world I observe, which is frequently hilarious. Here’s the thing. Most of what we witness in life is too complex to take in whole. Because of this we unconsciously edit what we see, select what to really record and what to ignore, which is why people who look at the same thing don’t necessarily see the same thing...Comic writers don’t so much invent funny things as strip away the distractions, the impediments to laughter.
  • I never worry about people not taking my work seriously as a result of the humor. In the end, the comic’s best trick is the illusion that comedy is effortless. That people imagine what he’s doing is easy is an occupational hazard. Cary Grant never won an Oscar, primarily, I suspect, because he made everything look so effortless. Why reward someone for having fun, for being charming? In "serious" fiction (as in "serious" film) you can feel the weight of the material. You expect to see the effort and the strain of all that heavy lifting, and we reward the effort as much as the success. Comedy is often just as serious, and to ignore that seriousness is misguided, of course, but most writers with comic world views have accustomed themselves to being sold at a discount. Most of us wouldn’t have it any other way.
  • When I went to Spain, right after the Pulitzer I encountered Spanish journalists who are very different from American journalists. One way is that they are all very political. They want their writers to be very political. The first journalist that I met when I was there asked "Are you going to use your prize for political purposes?" I said, "Good Lord, no, I wouldn’t trade on it—I’m a professional liar. I tell stories. I make things up." They were appalled. They made it very clear to me that that was the wrong answer and that it was further evidence of what was wrong with American authors and Americans, in general, was that we were insular. Which we are. And that we were not bearing our responsibilities in the world. And that fame that is ours has been wasted on people like us because we won’t use it for good purposes. American writers are probably far more insular than we should be, nevertheless I am very much of the other persuasion. That people should not talk about what they don’t know.

Straight Man (1997)

  • Truth be told, I'm not an easy man. I can be an entertaining one, though it's been my experience that most people don't want to be entertained. They want to be comforted. And, of course, my idea of entertaining might not be yours. I'm in complete agreement with all those people who say, regarding movies, "I just want to be entertained." This populist position is much derided by my academic colleagues as simpleminded and unsophisticated, evidence of questionable analytical and critical acuity. But I agree with the premise, and I too just want to be entertained. That I am almost never entertained by what entertains other people who just want to be entertained doesn't make us philosophically incompatible. It just means we shouldn't go to movies together.
    • Prologue
  • Were it not for Occam's Razor, which always demands simplicity, I'd be tempted to believe that human beings are more influenced by distant causes than immediate ones. This would especially be true of overeducated people, who are capable of thinking past the immediate, of becoming obsessed by the remote. It's the old stuff, the conflicts we've never come to terms with, that sneaks up on us, half forgotten, insisting upon action.
    • Ch. 2
  • One of the nice things about our marriage, at least to my way of thinking, is that my wife and I no longer have to argue every thing through. We each know what the other will say, and so the saying becomes an unnecessary formality. No doubt some marriage counselor would explain to us that our problem is a failure to communicate, but to my way of thinking we've worked long and hard to achieve this silence, Lily's and mine, so fraught with mutual understanding.
    • Ch. 2
  • That afternoon I came to understand that one of the deepest purposes of intellectual sophistication is to provide distance between us and our most disturbing personal truths and gnawing fears.
    • Epilogue

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