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Elsewhere: A memoir by Richard Russo
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Elsewhere: A memoir (edition 2012)

by Richard Russo

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3001637,355 (3.81)10
Member:BALE
Title:Elsewhere: A memoir
Authors:Richard Russo
Info:Knopf (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 256 pages
Collections:Read, Read but unowned
Rating:***1/2
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Elsewhere: A memoir by Richard Russo

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Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
I love Richard Russo, but this was a hard book to read. It's a memoir, but as he says, it's about his mother, and it was just flat out painful. I hurt for both him AND his mother. Not what I would call an enjoyable read, although there were several passages I wrote down in my "remember this" notebook.


Lori Anderson

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  limamikealpha | Jun 5, 2014 |
I am a fan of Richard Russo and read his first five novels. He's written four others since then, so I know I've slipped some. ELSEWHERE, a 'kind-of-a-memoir,' is a totally different animal from his fiction. What he has to say about his hometown of Gloversville, New York, explains a lot about the central theme of most of his fiction - that sad, nearly expired economy of small upstate mill towns. But the central focus of this memoir is Russo's long and frustrating close relationship with his single mom, Jean, who followed him when he went west to college, and kept on shadowing him and demanding his attention for the rest of her life, even after he married and moved several times and had children. It's a sad, dark tale of a woman who didn't seem to know what the hell she wanted, and was so obviously mentally disturbed that it seems hard to believe Russo himself didn't recognize her serious illness, which was only officially diagnosed when she was in her late seventies. Within the family, her condition was subtly called 'nerves.' Russo's father, a shiftless alcoholic gambler long separated/estranged from Jean, warned Rick early on that she was crazy, but Russo refused to acknowledge it for decades, even with his mother following him all over the country and causing him myriad problems, intruding into his marriage and family life. A doctor finally diagnosed her as suffering from OCD, but, judging from Russo's own description of his mother, she was probably also bipolar. In any case, she was a pitiful deluded mess for most of her life.

But what comes clear in Russo's narrative is how devoted he was to his wacko mother, and how, despite all odds, he never abandoned her (her worst fear), and for that one has to admire him.

Nevertheless, ELSEWHERE is not an easy or pleasant read. I found myself constantly wincing throughout this sad story of a life gone haywire. It does however, shed a lot of light on the origins of Russo's fiction - characters and settings alike. If you are a Russo reader, then this memoir-cum-biography should probably be required reading. ( )
  TimBazzett | Feb 28, 2014 |
De verhuiszieke, manisch-depressieve moeder van de schrijver is een levenslange zorg voor hem. Pas na haar overlijden komt hij er achter dat ze aan een dwangneurose leed. ( )
  joucy | Jan 7, 2014 |
Russo's memoir is written in a way that is both tightly focussed on the two main characters, mother and son, and a carefully matter-of-fact almost deadpan style (and then we did this, and then we did that), creating a tension between what he was saying and what I was 'getting'. Could he really have never realized that his mother was an obsessive-compulsive until after she had died? Yes, obviously, but it is somewhat amazing to me as he recounts this maddening story of a lifetime of caretaking his mother, basically carting her around with him wherever he went. Does he have any idea just how loyal and kind he was to her? No, even at the end of the book he's struggling with guilt and a kind of wordlessness, what if... That part I do understand, especially about the last years of a dying parent's life, how hard it is not to question every decision you made with hindsight's perfect vision. There is something, nonetheless, a bit too easy in the end about the way Elsewhere ends for me to give it a higher rating ***1/2 ( )
  sibyx | Dec 22, 2013 |
this was such an interesting read. russo did a good job sharing his life, and his mother's life, with readers in a way that was insightful and sensitive…but not full of blame and anger. (and there really could have been.) it was quite co-dependent relationship russo and his mother had, she: a single mother, he: an only child. it's complicated, messy, sad, tense, but throughout russo seems to have a great strength in seeing the big picture, and assessing his place and role within. kudos, i think, to his wife - for spending 35 years in a marriage that included her husband and her mother-in-law. i hope their 'now what?' years are really happy and full of good things.

(i also liked the little insights russo offered about his writing. it wasn't the focus of the book at all but, here and there, small mentions were shared.) ( )
  DawsonOakes | Dec 12, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
Mr. Russo is too honest a writer to either romanticize or condemn his past. . . . The greatest charm of this memoir lies in the absence of self-pity and pretension in the author's take on his own history. Now that he is sitting atop a fruitful career and solid family life. Mr. Russo's dominant emotions seem to be gratitude and relief. He reports that, unlike "far too many writers," he has made "an excellent living" churning out books and screenplays. The level of responsibility he took on at an early age--because nobody else could do it for him--is the underpinning of his work ethic and success.
added by sgump | editWall Street Journal, Amy Finnerty (Nov 1, 2012)
 
Richard Russo’s first memoir, “Elsewhere,” tells the story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist’s loving and difficult relationship with his mother, Jean. Mr. Russo’s parents separated when he was a child in upstate New York. Raised by his mother, he served as her emotional wellspring, for better and worse. As Mr. Russo became a professor and a successful novelist, he remained deeply devoted to Jean, bringing her with him to Arizona and then back to the East Coast. In a recent e-mail interview, Mr. Russo discussed his decision to write about his mother, the autobiographical elements of his fiction and more. Below are edited excerpts from the conversation: .......
added by marq | editNew York Times, JOHN WILLIAMS (Oct 30, 2012)
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307959538, Hardcover)

After eight commanding works of fiction, the Pulitzer Prize winner now turns to memoir in a hilarious, moving, and always surprising account of his life, his parents, and the upstate New York town they all struggled variously to escape.

Anyone familiar with Richard Russo's acclaimed novels will recognize Gloversville once famous for producing that eponymous product and anything else made of leather. This is where the author grew up, the only son of an aspirant mother and a charming, feckless father who were born into this close-knit community. But by the time of his childhood in the 1950s, prosperity was inexorably being replaced by poverty and illness (often tannery-related), with everyone barely scraping by under a very low horizon.

A world elsewhere was the dream his mother instilled in Rick, and strived for herself, and their subsequent adventures and tribulations in achieving that goal—beautifully recounted here—were to prove lifelong, as would Gloversville's fearsome grasp on them both. Fraught with the timeless dynamic of going home again, encompassing hopes and fears and the relentless tides of familial and individual complications, this story is arresting, comic, heartbreaking, and truly beautiful, an immediate classic.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:46:34 -0400)

This work is the author's memoir of his life, his parents, and the upstate New York town they all struggled variously to escape. Anyone familiar with the author's fiction will recognize Gloversville, New York, once famous for producing that eponymous product and anything else made of leather. This is where the author grew up, the only son of an aspirant mother and a good-time, second-fiddle father who were born into this close-knit community. But by the time of his childhood in the 1950s, prosperity was inexorably being replaced by poverty and illness (often tannery-related), everyone barely scraping by under a very low horizon. A world elsewhere was the dream his mother instilled in Rick, and strived for herself, and their subsequent adventures and tribulations, recounted here, only to prove lifelong, as would Gloversville's fearsome grasp on them both.… (more)

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