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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 Elsewhere 

I’m not into the memoir genre but I’ll read anything by Russo, so I devoured his memoir Elsewhere like a total maniac. God, he’s a good writer. I massively loved the book. 

The story Russo tells, however, is deeply disturbing because his insight into the events of his life is beyond superficial. Elsewhere is the story of relentless emotional abuse the writer’s mother subjected him to and – much more inexcusably – his wife and daughters. One of the daughters went crazy as a result, but not even that helped Russo wake up to what was happening. 

The memoir was written years after the abusive stinkbomb of a mother had kicked the shitbucket, but Russo was still writing from the place of guilt for not having been a more convenient, accommodating victim. The saddest part of the book is when he demeans his work as a writer in order to exalt a long-dead freak of a momma. 

Folks, I’m from the USSR, right? I’ve seen so many stories of parents cannibalizing their children’s lives but even I have never encountered anything quite as bad as Russo’s case. By the end of the book, it was literally painful to read, especially in the part where Russo describes his daughter going from a luminously happy, confident woman to an anxiety-ridden mental case. (She’s been diagnosed, so please don’t think it’s my characterization of her state.) 

It’s like, gosh, if you want to be eaten alive by mommy, good for you, but then try not to procreate, at least. 

Still love Russo as a writer, though. 

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One thought on “Book Notes: Richard Russo’s Elsewhere 

  1. I couldn’t stand this book because it was so l.i.t.e. As you say, he doesn’t really get to the issue although it is right in front of him. But I think he falls victim to the U.S. discourse of seeing the other side and “forgiving” — too soon. He is onto something in the comments on his mother’s wanting to be elsewhere, saying things were too painful “here.” But he does little with it.

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