Forgive me if I’m still blushing, but, last night I met one of my literary heroes and I’m still feeling a bit girlish. Richard Russo participated in a panel discussion about translating the novel to the screen as part of the Williamstown Film Festival and, thanks to Joe Donahue sharing that information on air, I was front and center, literally. No, really, I sat in the front row within 15 feet of Rick (as his co-panelists called him) and was utterly charmed by him. I’ll tell you everything…
About 5 years ago, I went on a Russo kick and read all of the novels he had published. I was taken by his frankness, his nonjudgmental characterizations of the people who populated his world. (Let me just say one thing, I have a degree in English, yet I feel unqualified to really talk literature.) Here’s how I see Richard Russo – he is the John Irving of upstate New York. He’s one of us. He sees people in a respectful manner, reserving his own judgment and simply allowing their story to be told. I love his ability to make me smile and shake my head in a single sentence. Amazing! My favorite of Russo’s works is Bridge of Sighs and this is the piece that quaked me:
“But each of them had walked through an open door, then heard it slam shut behind them and the mechanism lock. While neither regretted her decision, knowing the door was locked was disconcerting just the same, as was the fact that their husbands, if they’d heard that same slam and click, seemed untroubled by it. If anything, knowing there was no turning back was reassuring to them. They never felt trapped,, never wondered about the mountain road not taken, never felt as though some important part of them was withering as another flourished, never were greedy for what they didn’t have and would never experience.”
Holy shit! I had never heard that sensation described so accurately – much less by a male author emoting for a female character. That was deep, sensitive, insightful, intense. I grabbed my little black book and, after reading the passage an additional 1/2 dozen times or so, noted the passage.
I’ve shared this extended quote a time or two with friends that I knew would be moved by the words – male and female. I certainly never imagined having an opportunity to tell the author of those words how powerful I had found them to be. Goodness, I live a good and lucky life, because there I was at the Clark Art Museum walking down the hall next to Russo and telling him he inspired me to get divorced. Just kidding! Well, I did say that, but I was only kidding about his being to blame for my marital status. I will, however, hold him completely responsible for writing words that truly inspire and move me, a state of being that I can only hope continues for many years, and books, to come.