cover image The Destiny Thief: Essays on Writing, Writers, and Life

The Destiny Thief: Essays on Writing, Writers, and Life

Richard Russo. Knopf, $25.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-5247-3351-3

In his first essay collection, Russo (Everybody’s Fool) rambles leisurely through a broad range of topics with his characteristically amiable voice. In a commencement speech to the 2004 graduating class of Colby College, where he then taught, the Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist offers “Russo’s Rules for a Good Life,” such as “search out the kind of work you’d gladly do for free and then get somebody to pay you for it.” In the most poignant essay, “Imagining Jenny,” Russo powerfully portrays the physical difficulties endured by a friend during gender-reassignment surgery. Elsewhere, in “The Gravestone and the Commode,” Russo brilliantly uses the incongruity of an old gravestone sitting next to an apple tree in his backyard, marking no apparent grave, to illustrate life’s inherent absurdity, as a consequence of which the writer has “no need to make the world a funny place.” In the longest selection, “Getting Good,” Russo artfully meanders from his early abortive attempts to become a rock musician to his successful writing career, concluding that any artist hungering for success must “put in the time because genius isn’t nearly enough.” Russo’s colorful book offers his novel’s fans more of his dazzling and moving writing, often revealing glimpses of the forces that drive a bestselling fiction writer. [em]Agent: Nat Sobel, Sobel Weber Associates. (May) [/em]