Like that most astringent of Victorian baggy monsters, the rather more concise Empire Falls dwells deep in the realm of utter disappointment: characters repeatedly discover that the most intensely desired objects of their affection, whether financial or physical, prove sadly unworthy. [...]
Despite the grimness, the novel is, in fact, very funny--rather funnier, I think, than Straight Man. Thackeray would have approved of Russo's sense of irony, whether it's applied to the Whiting family woes ("Honus wanted his son to be prepared for the inevitable day when he, too, would lose his marbles and assault Charles' mother with whatever weapon came to hand" ) or Janine's husband-to-be, Walt ("He always drank her in with what seemed to be fresh eyes, and she didn't really care if the reason for this might be short-term memory deficiency" ). Not to mention a Cat from Hell--perhaps a direct descendant, as I suggested a couple of weeks ago, from Bleak House's vicious Lady Jane.
13 February 2006
The Little Professor finds parallels between Empire Falls and Vanity Fair: