In The Destiny Thief: Essays on Writing, Writers and Life, Russo proves to be a familiar presence – thoughtful, funny, endearing – and surprising, as well ... Russo opines on the themes of ambition and talent, and the often dicey relationship between the two ... Unplugged from fictional characters and reporting on his own behalf, Russo is a genial narrator, meandering, poking fun at himself. If a joke or gag can be found, he’ll milk it for all it’s worth – even if it requires an apology after the fact. Still, a thread of sadness permeates this book, with more than a few references to the central longing in Russo’s life – for a steady father and an intact family. Readers who come to this book in search of the storyteller they know from Russo’s fiction will be well-rewarded. The strongest pieces here are stories that emanate from the author’s life – about writing, teaching and friendship ... In the end, some readers may prefer the more well-rounded author-teacher-critic version of Russo, while others will favor the undiluted storyteller. Either way, Russo delivers the cozy intelligence and comic savvy that readers have come to admire.
The higgledy-piggledy provenance of these pieces—The Sewanee Review, two book introductions...an address to the 2004 graduates of Colby College and so forth—might make you think you’re about to dig into a smorgasbord of frozen leftovers. But it turns out that Russo the nonfiction writer is a lot like Russo the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist. He is affably disagreeable, wry, idiosyncratic, vulnerably bighearted, a craftsman of lubricated sentences. In the end, you almost always want Russo to go on ... That said ... Russo’s graduation speech is better than most such peppy pensées aimed at the yet-to-be employed, but it hardly exceeds the limits of the genre. Neither does his look at The Pickwick Papers, which (unlike his rounded introduction on Twain) is written in a professorial shorthand that might make you feel like a student who didn’t complete the reading assignment ... Perhaps what’s most admirable about these essays is their genial and searching tone. In this know-it-all age of thought-leader messiahs and thumb-taunting Twitter Torquemadas, Russo places his faith in the ideals of art—ambiguity, paradox, heresy, the sublime—over the black-and-white ideologies of our current politics. Leave it to a fiction writer to remind us that the world is, more often than not, stubbornly subjective.
One of the questions most frequently asked of writers is, 'How did you get your start?' That and many other questions about writing and a writer’s life are answered in the all-encompassing nine essays in Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Russo’s The Destiny Thief: Essays on Writing, Writers and Life ... Anyone in search of an eye-opening series of essays by a distinguished writer about writing and the writing life need look no further than the nine entertaining and informative entries in The Destiny Thief.