Book Notes: Richard Russo’s Everybody’s Fool
Richard Russo is, in my opinion, the greatest living American writer. Read Russo if you want to see 21st-century American literature at its best.
Everybody’s Fool is a sequel to an earlier novel titled Nobody’s Fool but it’s much stronger than the original. It is not a novel of the crisis because Russo isn’t noticing the crisis. He isn’t noticing anything but the single subject he writes about almost obsessively: the tragedy of the patriarchal mentality that posits men and women as irreconcilably different from each other. Russo’s characters are dying of loneliness and sadness but it doesn’t occur to them that their spouses and lovers don’t have to constitute an enigmatic and threatening presence in their lives.
This is a novel that should be taught in every gender studies course. Not only would it be an absolute joy to teach because it’s a work of art but it also would help students develop a profound understanding of the ills of the patriarchy better than miles of poorly written and unhinged “theoretical” screeds by disturbed and boring people that are being taught right now.
One thing I didn’t like about the novel is that Russo introduced several African American characters, and he’s not very good at writing about African Americans. They end up being little more than collections of stereotypes. My guess is that Russo must have been criticized at some point for creating lily white character casts, and instead of staying true to who he is, the writer decided to diversify. The result is quite awkward. One can only be thankful that the writer spared us a couple of characters who are Syrian refugees or illegal Mexicans.
There is also homosexuality in the novel, but it’s treated in a way that’s a lot more nuanced and convincing than race.
If there is anybody here who has read the novel, let’s talk about it. Have you noticed, for instance, how Raymer and Alice are mirror images of each other and what it tells us about the future Raymer has with Charice?