TALES OF BLUE-COLLAR LIFE IN UPSTATE NEW YORK
7 p.m. Tuesday, August 29, 2023
Reading / Conversation, Main Theatre, UAlbany Performing Arts Center
1400 Washington Avenue, Albany NY 12222 See map.
Richard Russo, major American novelist whose work has brought national attention to the comedy and sadness of blue-collar life in Upstate New York’s small towns, returns to Albany with Somebody’s Fool (2023) the final installment in his beloved “North Bath” trilogy.
Other books in the trilogy include Nobody’s Fool (1993), which became a major motion picture starring Paul Newman, and Everybody’s Fool (2016). Russo received the Pulitzer Prize for Empire Falls (2001), adapted as a 2005 HBO miniseries starring Ed Harris, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Helen Hunt, and Paul Newman. His 1997 academic satire, Straight Man, set at a small Pennsylvania college, is currently the basis of a new TV show, "Lucky Hank," starring Bob Odenkirk on AMC.
Book signing and reception with light refreshments to follow in the Futterer Lounge. Post-event entertainment outside the PAC will feature alt-folk band Doctor Baker.
(Photo credit: Elena Seibert)
Quotes and photos from the event
“Richard Russo drove more than four hours from Maine to get to campus in time to speak with 50 UAlbany students, including aspiring authors, at an afternoon craft talk. He connected wonderfully with the students and was encouraging and generous in answering their questions.
At the evening event, after an hour on stage in conversation with Casey Seiler, he gave his full attention and had a friendly chat with every person who stood in a long book signing line, some bearing armfuls of Russo titles. He did not rush anyone. He listened to their stories. He spent more than one hour signing books until every single person got their Russo time. And then he waited to talk with and thank members of the band Doctor Baker who played outside afterward.
He is a great American novelist, and an even greater human being.” -- Paul Grondahl
“It was great to be back at the New York State Writers Institute last night to hear Richard Russo read to a full auditorium from his new novel, Somebody's Fool and be interviewed by TU Editor Casey Seiler. The conversation mused on fate and free will, Paul Newman, and the existential despair Russo observes in his hometown of Gloversville.” – Tim Cahill
“I was awed last night to be standing so close to Richard Russo and William Kennedy. Thank you for bringing greatness to the 518!” – Kathy McCarthy
“Author Richard Russo spoke at UAlbany last night about how actors playing characters from his novel Nobody’s Fool altered those characters, his inventions, in his own mind. Jessica Tandy didn’t look a bit like the Miss Beryl he described; Paul Newman adlibbed lines the author never wrote; Phillip Seymour Hoffman utterly embodied Officer Raymer. In writing two sequels, Everybody’s Fool and now Somebody’s Fool, Russo said he used Newman’s lines as if Sully had uttered them in the first book and envisioned Hoffman in his head. Sad that Tandy, Newman, and Hoffman are no longer around to play the parts in new movies, but this was testimony to the power of acting to bring words to life — even for their author.” – Rosemary Armao
Near the end of the evening, Casey Seiler noted Newman starred in more movies based on Russo’s writings -- “Nobody's Fool” (1994) “Twilight” (1998) and Empire Falls (2005) -- than any other author. Russo recounted a story that touched on his relationship with the late Paul Newman.
Here is an excerpt from Russo’s essay published in the New York Times telling the story:
“… Since we’re talking about coming clean, I’ll end with a personal anecdote. At some point — in the run-up to filming “Twilight,” I think — Paul invited [director] Robert Benton and me to lunch at his New York apartment overlooking Central Park. He claimed he ate pretty much the same thing every day — roast chicken, a green salad and his favorite crusty bread, which he had flown in from California. The meal struck me as an odd mix of modesty and privilege (in all of New York there was no bakery that met his standard for crusty bread?).
As we ate, the conversation turned to what we liked to cook, and when Paul expressed interest in my lobster sauce, I told him I’d be happy to send him the recipe, to which he replied — wistfully, I thought — that he would prefer an invitation to dinner. I think I understood even at the time that he was serious. I don’t mean to suggest that he would’ve taken me up on the invitation if I had extended it. His life was far too complicated and busy to indulge many such invitations. Rather, it seemed like a good idea at the time, like something he would’ve enjoyed doing if things were different, if, well, he wasn’t Paul Newman.
The point is, I never extended the invitation. Why not? I think it’s because just as Paul, even at the height of his fame, considered himself a kid from Shaker Heights [Ohio], I was still a kid from a Rust Belt mill town in upstate New York, where people didn’t invite movie stars to dinner. Where Paul and I met — and where we became friends — was in the make-believe world of books and movies, where men like Sully and Frank Galvin and “Fast Eddie” Felson get second chances to do things right, a world where we teach ourselves who we are and — God help us — why.”
Excerpt from "Paul Newman’s Humanity and Star Power: When the actor appeared in the movie version of “Nobody’s Fool,” Richard Russo saw another side of him" New York Times, October 18, 2002.
Photography by Patrick Dodson / University at Albany
Richard Russo in conversation with Times Union Editor Casey Seiler on Tuesday, August 29 at the University at Albany Performing Arts Center.
NYS Writers Institute Founder William Kennedy at the Russo event on Tuesday, August 29 at UAlbany.
Niki Fillipone of Ballston Spa brought her stack of Russo hardcover editions on Tuesday for his signature.
Our event on Tuesday with Richard Russo (on left, seated with moderator Casey Seiler) was the final stop of his book tour for Somebody’s Fool.
NYS Writers Institute Director Paul Grondahl, William Kennedy, and Richard Russo at our season kickoff event on Tuesday, Aug. 29, at UAlbany.
About the Book
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls returns to North Bath, in upstate New York, and to the characters that captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of readers in his beloved best sellers Nobody's Fool and Everybody's Fool.
Ten years after the death of the magnetic Donald "Sully" Sullivan, the town of North Bath is going through a major transition as it is annexed by its much wealthier neighbor, Schuyler Springs. Peter, Sully's son, is still grappling with his father's tremendous legacy as well as his relationship to his own son, Thomas, wondering if he has been all that different a father than Sully was to him.
Meanwhile, the towns' newly consolidated police department falls into the hands of Charice Bond, after the resignation of Doug Raymer, the former North Bath police chief and Charice's ex-lover. When a decomposing body turns up in the abandoned hotel situated between the two towns, Charice and Raymer are drawn together again and forced to address their complicated attraction to one another. Across town, Ruth, Sully's married ex-lover, and her daughter Janey struggle to understand Janey's daughter, Tina, and her growing obsession with Peter's other son, Will. Amidst the turmoil, the town's residents speculate on the identity of the unidentified body, and wonder who among their number could have disappeared unnoticed.
Infused with all the wry humor and shrewd observations that Russo is known for, Somebody's Fool is another classic from a modern master.
Reviews of Somebody's Fool
“I’ve been so blessed. I have had the kind of career writers dream about..." Read Jack Rightmyer's interview with Richard Russo in the Times Union.
"A wise and witty drama of small-town life...delivering the generous humor, keen ear for dialogue, and deep appreciation for humanity’s foibles that have endeared the author to his readers for decades.” — Publishers Weekly
"Regarding North Bath, Richard Russo Saved His Best for Last"-- New York Times
“Russo’s latest book has an engaging plot that sensitively and insightfully explores themes of grief and reconciliation . . . the relationships between the characters give this story an emotional depth that has an undeniable appeal.” —Library Journal