Thursday, April 17, 2008

Grocer Jack



So what's all this cobblers about the market regulating and controlling itself then? Where's Adams Smiths famous invisible hand? How come we can bail out the bankers but the miners and the car workers can get on their bikes and retrain? How is this just? Capitalism, don't you just love it? What a fucking con. The trickle down effect........... it's a been a long time coming and it's not in sight yet.

Millions of people all over the world do not have enough food, there are food riots in all sorts of impoverished places, us affluent buggers over here complain about the price of bread yet every time I open a paper I see that we throw enormous amounts of food away. Does it make any sense to you? It doesn't to me. It's all the fault of the Chinese and the Indians anyway, cheeky fuckers, wanting a share of the good life.

Cheer yourself up with 30 of the worlds saddest songs.

I've been a bit poorly all week and feeling a bit out of sorts and sorry for myself besides, but I have had the opportunity to get stuck into Richard Russo's huge, magnificent and moving Bridge of Sighs. I am big fan of Russo, but I wasn't sure I would get through this and had I not been tucked up in my sick bed I probably wouldn't have, which would have been my loss.

His previous books, all set in small New York towns have been full of warmth and quirkiness, as is this, but it was the sympathy he had for his characters that was enticing.....his books are like drinking a hot chocolate. Initially, this one seemed a bit edgier, the tone a bit more bitter: he seemed at times to be consciously trying to write the Great American novel, it all seemed a bit cumbersome and I didn't like the characters introduced in Venice and I didn't like the size of it, it is massive. Which shows you what I know. Nothing.

This one is like enjoying a hot chocolate in a warm bath, but with an edge of spice to keep you from getting too comfortable, too complacent. Russo is brilliant on characterisation and I don't know, maybe it's my mood but he has the confidence to portray the most unsympathetic street rat as among the wisest people in the book. There is a theme within it that we cannot change, that the circumstances that we are born into will forever chain us, but he also shows that redemption is possible. The people from the wrong side of the tracks in Russos world would not be surprised at the current turn of events in our beautiful economic system.

As ever with Russo, the main themes are the small, imperfect lives of small town, flawed, but fundamentally decent people. He doesn't sugar coat the town, nor the people who reside within it and he doesn't ignore the tragic economic history which has left half the population poisoned. His basic humanity just shines through though, and you end up caring about these people, I still care about them, long after finishing the book, which, like the characters within it has a major flaw, not enough of a one to detract from the overall experience though.

An interview with Russo and an excerpt from the book here.
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