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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

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?

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10 thoughts on “Book Notes: Richard Russo’s Everybody’s Fool 

  1. el on said:

    I haven’t read it yet, but now found “Empire Falls” and am going to order it from the local library.

    If I like his writing style, I will definitely read this novel too.

    I notice that when I asked about analyzing Kitses’ Small Hours, you weren’t very enthusiastic. Here, you have written “should be taught in every gender studies course.” So, if one is searching for a good novel for analysis, you would recommend this author. 🙂

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    • Oh, absolutely. This is real literature. Russo makes me regret I’m not in American lit because I would love to work on this novel. It’s the opposite of a Bildungsroman, though. Russo writes about old and middle-aged people who are incapable of any growth.

      I’m very grateful for your comments on my book notes because I never know if people like them or hate them. Not that I would stop posting them either way. 😄

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      • el on said:

        \ I would love to work on this novel

        “Empire Falls” or “Everybody’s Fool”? Or both?

        Which is the better, deeper novel from literary pov? Or are they similar?

        \ my book notes because I never know if people like them or hate them

        I love them because this helps me discover new good authors and/or not feel bad for not reading novels I thought I should’ve read but was bored by after reading the back cover alone (“The Goldfinch”).

        Confession time: I am afraid I have lost something regarding reading. At least, regarding modern female writers. I once took a seminar on Canadian female writers, and didn’t like any. Not Margaret Laurence, not Atwood, not Alice Munro. May be, it was because I didn’t feel I had enough time to read the novels. May be, because the specific concerns of female characters they were interested in bored me and were not relevant to my experiences.

        I hope male writers and characters will be easier to identify with.

        Haven’t read any books for quite a while and now try to push myself and enjoy reading again, find a good novel, finish the degree, etc.

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        • Everybody’s Fool is fresher in my mind right now but either is fantastic.

          I feel the same about Munro and Atwood. One is supposed to like them but I find tyem very superficial.

          Have you read Beloved by Toni Morrison? It’s very powerful.

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  2. paranoid on said:

    I’ve been told that Straight Man is set in an only slightly disguised version of your sister school, where Russo spent (did?) time early in his career.


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  3. Pingback: Totally Trivial Tuesday | xykademiqz

  4. William Occam on said:

    I am a big fan of Russo as well and have read pretty much everything he has written so far. I found Straight Man to be the best of the lot; funny and serious is equal measure, and surprisingly uplifting.


    https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.js

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    • I don’t think I will like it, though. I read a couple of Russo’s short stories about academia, and he’s beyond clueless about it. He thinks, for instance, that all graduate course essays are preserved by the university and can be accessed by professors and students for decades. This is cluelessness of the highest order.

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      • all graduate course essays are preserved by the university and can be accessed by professors and students for decades

        LOL! He really has no clue.

        I threw out all uncollected student work associated with the spring semester one week after the final grades were submitted.

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        • Where are we even supposed to store all that material and, more importantly, why? I love students but the stuff they produce is not something that we need to preserve for posterity. It’s work product, that’s all.

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