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
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11 years 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.

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