Richard Russo's Catholic Language

Kudos to my friend and colleague Bill McGarvey over at BustedHalo for snagging an interview with author Richard Russo. I’m a big fan of Russo, who is one of the funniest writers around. Straight Man made me laugh as much as Lucky Jim. (Well, almost as much.) Perceptive readers of Russo’s fiction might detect certain Catholic influences in his work. Bill addresses this issue in one of his questions:
BH: The sense of desire for permanence which you portray in your book--it screams out in your books--that longing for faith or for eternity. Are you aware of that? RR: Well, I keep naming characters in my books Grace, don’t I? (laughs) As I’ve said, that what’s left of my Catholicism is the language.* Grace, original sin. Nothing make me more angry than to hear simple concepts that have been good and useful going back thousands of years, but now we can’t talk about good and evil anymore, we’ve turned it into good choices and bad choices. Well screw that! We don’t want to ground anything in morality anymore. We’re going to secularize the entire language? We’re going to neuter it?
*Earlier in the interview Russo said, "I was raised a Catholic but I am not a Catholic anymore but what has remained is the language of Catholicism." I would argue that it isn’t just Russo’s language that’s Catholic, but also certain themes that he returns to again and again: his great sympathy for those left behind by industrial "progress"; that "longing for eternity," as Bill puts it. One wonders why Russo no longer considers himself Catholic. Tune into our podcast in the coming weeks for further discussion of The Bridge of Sighs, part of our occasional Audio Book Club. Tim Reidy
Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
10 years 7 months ago
I'm also a huge fan of Russo, and loved "Empire Falls" (which I thought was chock-full of Catholic-vibe). That said -- and I'll look forward to others' takes -- I thought "Bridge of Sighs" was, for Russo, a letdown.

Advertisement

The latest from america

A woman who told police that she and her family were from Sudan is taken into custody by a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer after arriving in February 2017 by taxi and walking across the U.S.-Canada border into Quebec. (CNS photo/Christinne Muschi, Reuters)
Canada is not innocent when it comes to immigration policies that have the potential to hurt individuals and divide families.
Dean DettloffJuly 13, 2018
In this June 6, 2018, photo, President Donald Trump's Chief of Staff John Kelly attends a briefing on this year's hurricane season at the Federal Emergency Management Agency Headquarters in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
The private letter, sent more than a year ago, may have had changed Mr. Kelly’s mind for a time.
J.D. Long-GarcíaJuly 13, 2018
May the best team win. Actually, may Croatia win, argues Travis Timmons.
Travis Timmons July 13, 2018
A banner showing St. John Paul II hangs from a lamp pole in Krakow, Poland, as Pope Francis arrives to attend World Youth Day in 2016. Surveys show that Poland leads Europe, and the United States, in religious commitment. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
U.S. religious belief has been more resilient than in other modernized, affluent countries. Still, weekly churchgoing pales compared with Poland.
Stephen BullivantJuly 13, 2018