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Richard Russo
Richard Russo

Pulizter Prize-winning novelist and Gloversville native to discuss new novel,
“Bridge of Sighs”

NYS Writers Institute,October 5, 2007

4:15 p.m. Seminar | Assembly Hall, CC, Uptown Campus
8:00 p.m. Reading | Page Hall, Downtown Campus

Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and Gloversville native, will read from “Bridge of Sighs” (2007), his new novel about an upstate New York convenience store mogul and his attempts to reconnect with a high school friend who has become a famous artist in Europe. The reading is scheduled for Friday, October 5, 2007 at 8:00 p.m. in Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, on the University at Albany’s downtown campus. Earlier that same day at 4:15 p.m. the author will present an informal seminar in the Assembly Hall, Campus Center on the uptown campus. The events are sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute and the Greater Capital Region Teacher Center, and are free and open to the public.


With typical humor, Johnstown-born, Gloversville-raised novelist Richard Russo explores a clash of cultures in his newest novel, “Bridge of Sighs”(2007), the story of Louis Charles “Lucy” Lynch, a convenience store mogul in the fictional upstate town of Thomaston, New York. The novel follows Lynch’s efforts to reconnect with the best friend of his youth, a painter who fled the state to pursue a completely different life in the rarefied art circles of Europe.

“Publishers Weekly” called the book a “splendid chronicle . . . largehearted, vividly populated and filled with life from America’s recent, still vanishing past.”

Russo is regarded by many leading critics as the most important writer about “Main St., USA” since Sherwood Anderson and Sinclair Lewis. Russo received the Pulitzer Prize for his novel, “Empire Falls”(2001), which the “Christian Science Monitor”called, “the last great novel of the 20th century.” Writing in the “Chicago Tribune,” Hilma Wolitzer said, “[Russo] brilliantly evokes the economic and emotional depression of a failing town, a place where even the weather is debilitating and the inhabitants seem to struggle merely to stay in place.”

At the same time, Russo is widely considered to be one of America’s funniest literary writers. The “Boston Globe” has characterized his work as a whole as “sad-funny realism.” Writing in the “New York Times Book Review” Tom DeHaven called Russo’s 1997 academic satire, “Straight Man,” “the funniest serious novel I have read since . . . ‘Portnoy’s Complaint.’” In a 2001 “Book Page” interview, Russo characterized himself as “essentially a comic novelist.... I want that which is hilarious and that which is heartbreaking to occupy the same territory in the book because I think they very often occupy the same territory in life, much as we try to separate them.”

Russo’s other novels include “Nobody’s Fool” (1993), which was adapted for the screen starring Paul Newman; “The Risk Pool” (1988), which is currently being adapted for a 2008 film by “Raiders of the Lost Ark” screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan; and “Mohawk” (1986). Russo’s first collection of short stories, “The Whore’s Child,” appeared in 2002.

Russo himself scripted the HBO miniseries version of “Empire Falls,” starring Paul Newman, which aired in May, 2005. Other screenwriting credits include “Keeping Mum” (2005), winner of the “Film Discovery Jury Award” at the U. S. Comedy Arts Festival; and “The Ice Harvest” (2005), starring John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton.

 In association with Russo’s visit, the Writer’s Institute will offer a special screening of KEEPING MUM (UK, 2005, 103 minutes, color, 35 mm, directed by Niall Johnson) on Thursday, October 4, 2007 in Page Hall on the UAlbany downtown campus. A well-crafted black comedy in the Ealing tradition, “Keeping Mum” features an English vicar too preoccupied to notice his daughter’s unhealthy relationships with boys, his son’s problem with bullies, and his wife’s affair with an oversexed American golf tutor. An elderly housekeeper (Maggie Smith) moves in and takes it upon herself to put the family’s life in order. Part Mary Poppins, part Supernanny, she also happens to be criminally insane.

Previous Writers Institute visit: September 25, 2002

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at https://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.