Book Notes: Richard Russo’s Chances Are…

I have no idea how I managed to miss Russo’s new novel last year but I did. Russo is one of the best writers in America today. He writes in the great realist tradition that nobody does better than Americans. Chances Are… is the novel where Russo comes the closest to the tradition of the great Wallace Stegner, and I’m glad the writer is going in this direction.

Unlike some of Russo’s best work, Chances Are… isn’t about the working class. The protagonists are three men in their sixties who vacation on Martha’s Vineyard (so definitely not working class) and remember their youth.

There’s a mystery that the protagonists are trying to solve, a great plot, and very memorable characters. It’s a very enjoyable novel, in short. There should be more novels about men who are being men and trying to figure out their male lives. As one reviewer pointed out, the novel drips with testosterone, and I think that’s great.


There’s one thing I don’t get about Chances Are… The author set the novel on the eve of the 2016 presidential election and linked every character to the most primitive political stereotypes.

The Democrat in the novel is an impotent, immature, constantly terrified fusspot who is incapable of forming a family or procreating.

The Republican is very good at procreating but he’s a judgmental, rich, clueless guy who is comically conventional and incapable of going through life without his wife controlling every aspect of his daily existence.

The non-voting guy is a layabout whose only child is an opioid addict.

And the Trump voter is obviously a rich wife-beating, rapey bastard who is rude, hateful, racistsexist, and anti-education.

There’s even a scene where a group of “Christian tourists” comes to the Vineyard, and the tourists can’t agree on which Republican candidate they support. Of course, the most stupid, rude, and downright disgusting of them turn out to be Trump voters.

I’m not sure why any of this is in the novel. Everything else is so much better than these primitive stereotypes. My enjoyment of the book was undermined every time the Democrat demonstrated his terror of the physical aspects of human life and the Trump voter shook his naked beer gut at strangers. If anybody on here reads the novel and has an explanation for this, please share. There must be something, some plan or goal that I’m not seeing.

It’s still a great novel, though.

More of the Same

What did I tell you, folks? “Guest worker” immigration programs will remain in place and stronger than ever.

I can’t believe people are still falling into this trap. Oooh, Trump will suspend immigration, Trump will ban citizenship for anchor babies, Trump will build the wall. Silly fantasies.

Whether this is good or bad, everybody decides individually. But aside from the verbiage, Reagan and every president after him has been fanatically globalist to an identical degree. It’s simply a fact.

COVID Science of the Day

An article titled “Cluster of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in the French Alps, 2020” seems to suggest that children don’t transmit coronavirus, not even to high-risk people:

The occurrence in this cluster of one asymptomatic case with similar viral load as a symptomatic patient, suggests transmission potential of asymptomatic individuals. The fact that an infected child did not transmit the disease despite close interactions within schools suggests potential different transmission dynamics in children.

Here’s the link.

By the way, I’m very interested in studies that make contrary claims. Please leave links if you’ve come across such studies. I’m absolutely not wedded to any position here. I want to find out the truth, and I believe that nobody knows for sure everything there is to know about this virus yet. I’m completely open to any new knowledge on this.

Prefab Updates

What’s kind of creepy is that people have written stock coronavirus updates and are sending them to everybody in their email address book.

I’m getting weird emails full of details about relatives I never met from people I know from being in the same conference session or working on the same edited volume 5 years ago. It feels like involuntary snooping.

First News Memory

People on Twitter are asking:

What’s the first major news event you remember seeing on TV?

For me it was definitely the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. I was very taken by the big teddy bear flying away on a bunch of balloons. I still have separation anxiety because of that 🐻 leaving.