Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Richard Russo, Misogynist?

Why did Newsweek magazine allow Jennie Yabroff to slam author Richard Russo, calling him a misogynist? "In That Old Cape Magic, the protagonist, Griffin, is a classic Russo male: unable to get over his childhood (featuring, of course, a domineering mother and feckless father) and act on his own behalf." Yabroff goes on to say that "for the men of Russo's world, flaws are a good thing. . . women aren't afforded the luxury of conflict or shortcomings." That's far from the truth.

Richard Russo is a high-profile, Pulitzer Prize winner. He is an author whose often complex books mine the terrain of masculine self-discovery and how many people--flawed men and women--grapple with the idea of trying to connect to and feel at home in the world. He's shown great versatility with Empire Falls, Bridge of Sighs and in his latest, That Old Cape Magic - a comic, road trip novel written in a similiar style and tone to Russo's first book, Straight Man. (Hilarious!) Men are always at the center of Russo's novels (that's their appeal), but according to Yabroff, "The way Russo tells it, women are bitches, bovine, dumb (but shrewd); like witches, and their familiars, cats, they have magical powers to summon misfortune on any man who crosses them." You certainly don't need to read between the lines to recognize how Yabroff's insulting assessment of Russo's fictional women and his writing, in general, is a vicious and poorly substantiated attack. Excellent rebuttal essay about the Newsweek article by Bethanne Patrick over at BookStudio.

Photo of Richard Russo by Elena Seibert