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 2 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

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

(Nick Ansell/PA via AP, archive)
Recent allegations about one of the United Kingdom’s biggest and best-known charities has driven increased demands from some quarters that overseas aid be reduced, if not abolished completely.
David StewartFebruary 23, 2018
Students who walked out of classes from Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland protest against gun violence in front of the White House on Feb. 21 in Washington. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)
The desire for stronger gun control may not translate into more caution with gun storage among owners of firearms.
Kevin ClarkeFebruary 23, 2018
Of the estimated 14.5 million school-age Catholic children in the U.S., about or 55 percent are Latino. Yet 4 percent of school-age Latino Catholic children are enrolled in Catholic schools.
Maria Luisa TorresFebruary 23, 2018
Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, is pictured at the Vatican in this Oct. 9, 2012, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Cardinal Sarah questions why Catholics stand—rather than kneel—and receive Communion in the hand.
Michael J. O’LoughlinFebruary 23, 2018