Nate in Venice

Nate in Venice - Richard Russo 3 1/2 stars

I am a huge fan of Richard Russo. I thoroughly enjoyed Empire Falls, The Straight Man, and The Whore's Child and other stories. This one not so much but mainly because I thought it was only about 75% complete.

Several of the top tier literary writers have joined the trend of releasing novellas between releases of their longer works: Joyce Carol Oates (Patricide: A Novella), Anne Tyler (The Beginner's Goodbye), Margaret Atwood (I'm Starved for You), Saul Bellow (The Actual) and Phillip Roth (Everyman). All of these books are very good and give a reader a sense of the style and voice, the humor and insight, and the wicked edge that these great writers bring to all of their works.

I liked Nate in Venice. I just didn't love it. It was well written. I don't think Richard Russo can write badly if he tried. There is the sophisticated humor, cutting social and cultural commentary, and complex characters that we find in all of Russo's works. He is a Pulitzer prize winner for a reason.

But to me Nate in Venice read like a sample. A chapter, maybe, in a larger work. I am ok with ambiguity but this story is just incomplete. I was really enjoying the story until suddenly Russo pulls the plug and says "That's it" and left me scratching my head, wondering what happened to all of these interesting story lines. Without giving anything away, I found the past event that changes the protagonist's life to be underwhelming. I was expecting something more serious.