Wednesday, April 29, 2009

First Sentences: Richard Russo's Bridge of Sighs

Here's Richard Russo's first sentence from Bridge of Sighs (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007): "First, the facts."

Not much, is it. It tells you only that there's more to come, which you can tell by the bulk of the book's 527 thick hard-backed pages. Also, I'm not sure that in beginning a novel you should start with facts without first establishing character. It goes against everything I have been taught and believe.

But, I'm a big fan of Richard Russo which I can never understand about myself because his writing violates everything I believe about good writing. Still, I can't help myself.

I think it's because I first saw the film version of his novel Nobody's Fool, and got interested in his characters. Then I read the book and found them somewhat different, but I loved the book. Then I went back and read his other stuff, which I liked to varying degrees, from a lot to a whole lot.

I grew up in upstate New York, Schenectady in fact, and his books just drip upstate New York. He grew up in Gloversville, which went south after women stopped wearing gloves in the 1960s and has never ever quite recovered. Schenectady has gone south since GE pulled most everybody out of there and is, I understand, in a bad way. I haven't been back in a while.

So, when I picked up this book, I didn't care what the first sentence was. I just wanted to get into another of his worlds.

Which tells you that once you establish an audience, you can get away with just about anything. But, for us who haven't gotten to that yet, we have to do things differently.

What do you think? Tell me. Post a comment. I'd like to know. And follow me on

Writing is for me an entrepreneurial activity. For my ideas on entrepreneurship, go to and for entrepreneurial real estate go to and for my ideas on writing and publishing, go to


Ian Kearney, the director of the Kearney Music School, an elite musical training school in Philadelphia, dies after a fall from a balcony during a recital. World-famous cellist, Henry Harrier, recently forced from the faculty, returns to investigate Ian's death when his prized former student is arrested. Henry shows through his brilliant and single-minded pursuit of the truth that, as usual, they have it all wrong. This Sherlock Holmes-type mystery leads the reader through the world of classical music and lays bare the conflicts which dominate the lives of talented adolescents when placed under the pressure of studying for a demanding, stressful, and often elusive career as a classical music performer. Henry Harrier is part John Le Carre's George Smiley, part Arthur Conan Doyle's Holmes, and part Orlando Cole the beloved teacher, renowned chamber musician, and until his own retirement, the premier cellist of the Curtis Institute.

Author Profile:

Tim was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, on January 30, 1946. In 1951 he moved with his family to Schenectady, New York, where he lived through high school. He attended Baldwin-Wallace College, Berea, Ohio, from 1964 to 1968. He graduated in 1968 with a B.A. in history and philosophy. He received his Ph. D. in history in U.S. history in 1980 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison after spending 2.5 years in the U. S. Army. Most of his army service was completed in Wuerzburg, Germany, from 1969-1971. In 1972 he returned to Madison to complete his doctoral study. His dissertation, Those Who Moved; Internal Migrants in American 1607-1840, combined the statistical analysis of genealogical and biographical data with the study of traditional literary diaries, letters, and journals.

Tim was a market and survey research consultant from 1983 to 2000 and a smoking cessation researcher from 2000 to 2003. His consulting practice focused primarily on conducting community health needs assessment. He authored hundreds of market research reports and published a number of his assessments in Community Health Needs Assessment published by McGraw Hill in 1996 and in a revised volume published in 1999. In 2000 he joined the staff of the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention of the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he conducted smoking cessation research. He published several articles in peer-reviewed journals and spoke at national smoking cessation conferences.

In 2003 he moved to Philadelphia and earned his real estate license. He now practices real estate, works on publishing his novels, and studies and teaches entrepreneurship.Tim has written a dozen novel-length stories, a volume of short stories, and about a 3-foot stack of pages poetry. He is currently working on earning his 4th million in real estate sales, publishing his novels, and working on an entrepreneurish handbook as a support for his students.

Tim is a trained violist and an experienced string quartet player. He is an avid listener to classical music and regularly attends classical music concerts. He has two grown children by his first wife and a stepdaughter with his second wife. He likes to cook, read, write, entertain, develop relationships, and help other people. Formerly Tim used to travel frequently. He doesn't so much anymore. Now he regards the combination of real estate practice, writing and publishing, and the teaching and studying of entrepreneurship as enough of a trip.