Book Notes: Richard Russo’s The Destiny Thief

Richard Russo is do talented that I’d gladly read a grocery list written by him. Of course, I prefer his novels or short stories but in the absence of any new ones a collection of essays titled The Destiny Thief: Essays on Writing, Writers and Life had to do.

The essays are very well-written and anybody who wants to be a fiction writer (which I most certainly don’t) should read them. They have really great advice for aspiring writers. There is also a wonderful essay on the non-fiction writings by Mark Twain that made me want to drop everything and go read Twain and a beautiful essay on Russo’s best friend who underwent a sex change operation.

One thing, though, was extremely funny about the book. You’d think that a literary titan like Russo has nobody to envy. He’s a recognized genius, he won a Pulitzer, he had Hollywood movies made based on his books – who can possibly get to him? Turns out, there is somebody. Russo is obsessed with people who self-publish on Amazon. The whole first half of The Destiny Thief is about Russo’s dislike for these writers. They’re quacks, their books are crap, they are not real writers, the success they experience is owed to the public being dumb, on and on he goes.

Of course, Russo writes real literature, and high culture is always only consumed by a tiny minority. Russo will never sell as many copies as Fifty Shades or Hunger Games. But that’s not due to self-publishing. More people consume junk food than Michelin star fare because they lack the resources and the knowledge that the latter even exists. It’s the same with literature. Most people have no intellectual resources to comprehend anything above the Twilight series. This is how it’s always been and will always be. Self-publishing didn’t cause it. And why should Russo care? As I said, he’s achieved every success. Why should he care if somebody gets a payout even if they do produce junk?

Good book but this obsession with self-published authors is boring.

3 thoughts on “Book Notes: Richard Russo’s The Destiny Thief

  1. Re Russo: Snobbery has no limits. Intellectual snobbery is among the most annoying kinds and he appears to have a bad case of it. People being all precious about stuff get on my nerves immensely.


    1. And there’s no reason for it either. Why should he care how people publish? Everybody’s got their own path. He’s successful doing things his way, other people found another way, it’s all good.


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