JUNE 2005

> A REVIEW OF RUSSO'S EMPIRE FALLS (2001) | jason jordan

If you keep tabs of what's going on in the literary world, then Richard Russo's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Empire Falls (Vintage, 2001) undoubtedly entered your radar at some point. There's simply no way to avoid the book. Not that you should either because it's a fantastic read but Russo's back catalog downplays the success of his "greatest achievement."

First, I'll tell you why I'm biased against Empire Falls. Straight Man another Russo novel is far better than anything else the man's unleashed. Although, and maybe more importantly, Mohawk was seemingly the springboard for a project such as this due to its employment of similar elements (i.e. story revolving around a small town, memorable characters interacting in low-key events, et al). The aforementioned statements funnel into why I don't think Empire Falls is the end-all-be-all R.R. book.

Second, though, I'll tell you why I like said text. Without a doubt, the author's latest piece feels like a genuine, natural progression from his past excursions. His writing, as astounding as it is, has risen above and beyond what I thought he was capable of crafting beforehand, and the characterization is multi-layered at worst. Since the story centers on a small town, the inane happenings really take a backseat to the unique characters. After all, characters are with whom a reader identifies. In short, Empire Falls follows protagonist Empire Falls Diner owner Miles Roby around while other characters traipse about in the background and foreground, respectively. It's not like Russo is dabbling in anything new here, but he still deserves proper accreditation for his skills.

Finally, all I have left to say is that Empire Falls is a great book in its own right, though it isn't able to compete with Straight Man. The former is a great read just as all Russo's material is and proves to be a worthy addition to anyone's oh-so-valuable Richard Russo library. But, there are more gratifying novels out there, and some are even by this same author.

> BIOGRAPHY | about the author

Jason Jordan is many things. He is staff reviewer for this magazine. He is the host of the BEAN STREET READING SERIES. He is an editor of The IUS Review. He has been a featured writer at the Tuesday Night Reading Series in Evansville, Indiana. His writing appears in THE EDWARD SOCIETY and THE2NDHAND. He is a writer.