Current Reads

Gnashing the Scenery

An unrepentant screenwriter leads the action in Russo's latest.

Book Cover There are some writers--for me, Rick Russo, Jim Harrison, Elmore Leonard, George Pelecanos, Amy Bloom, to name a few--for whom the matter at hand is not whether but rather how much I will like their latest creation. To be honest in Russo's (Bridge of Sighs, Empire Falls) case, only Straight Man didn't work for me, and looking back I'd bet even that one might improve with a reread.

The new opus, That Old Cape Magic (Knopf), focuses on the havoc created by familial relations; in middle-aged university professor and unrepentant screenwriter Griffin's case, havoc lingers well past his childhood. Here's a guy who cannot rest easy, as much of the story he is burdened with his mother's persistent telephonic intrusions and an urn of his father's ashes. His parents, both university professors stranded at midwestern universities (not the Ivy League of their aspirations), are most certainly a pair that beats a full house. What psychic baggage his parents have bequeathed to Griffin manages to wear down his seemingly viable marriage to Joy and dangle him in an emotional limbo.

The narrative dovetails at his daughter's wedding, where hilarity abounds and various self-truths are realized. It is, of course, one of Russo's talents that he can extract humor out of the tangled and frayed lifelines of his characters. An extra benefit of this novel is the author's keen observation of the silliness of the Hollywood film industry, Russo also being a successful screenwriter. I have earlier this year quoted one those juicy tidbits, so that will give you a taste of what you can expect.

Oh, did I mention that important parts of the novel are set on Cape Cod?
blog comments powered by Disqus