The Center for Fiction was thrilled to have partnered with Emmy Award-winning journalist, humorist, and writer Randy Cohen for a live recording of his innovative public-radio interview show, Person Place Thing. In this episode, Cohen welcomed the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Richard Russo (Empire Falls, Chances Are . . . ) to speak about one person, one place, and one thing meaningful to him, and to celebrate the launch of his latest novel, Somebody’s Fool. In this wry drama of small-town life, Russo returns to North Bath, in Upstate New York, and to the characters that captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of readers in Russo’s beloved bestsellers Nobody’s Fool and Everybody’s Fool. Full of humor, pathos, and wisdom, Somebody’s Fool explores grief and reconciliation with dexterous storytelling. We enjoyed watching their engaging discussion and surprising stories—interspersed with live performances by musicians Ben Copperhead and Brent Arnold from the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music.
By Richard Russo
Published by Knopf
Ten years after the death of the magnetic Donald “Sully” Sullivan, the town of North Bath is going through a major transition as it is annexed by its much wealthier neighbor, Schuyler Springs. Peter, Sully’s son, is still grappling with his father’s tremendous legacy as well as his relationship to his own son, Thomas, wondering if he has been all that different a father than Sully was to him.
Meanwhile, the towns’ newly consolidated police department falls into the hands of Charice Bond, after the resignation of Doug Raymer, the former North Bath police chief and Charice’s ex-lover. When a decomposing body turns up in the abandoned hotel situated between the two towns, Charice and Raymer are drawn together again and forced to address their complicated attraction to one another. Across town, Ruth, Sully’s married ex-lover, and her daughter Janey struggle to understand Janey’s daughter, Tina, and her growing obsession with Peter’s other son, Will. Amidst the turmoil, the town’s residents speculate on the identity of the unidentified body, and wonder who among their number could have disappeared unnoticed.
Infused with all the wry humor and shrewd observations that Russo is known for, Somebody’s Fool is another classic from a modern master.
Richard Russo is the author of nine novels, most recently Chances Are . . . , Everybody’s Fool, and That Old Cape Magic; two collections of stories; and the memoir Elsewhere. In 2002 he received the Pulitzer Prize for Empire Falls, which, like Nobody’s Fool, won multiple awards for its screen adaptation, and in 2023 his novel Straight Man was adapted into the television series Lucky Hank. In 2017, he received France’s Grand Prix de Littérature Américaine. He lives in Portland, Maine.
Photo Credit: Elena Seibert
Randy Cohen’s first professional work was writing humor pieces, essays, and stories for newspapers and magazines (the New Yorker, Harper’s, the Atlantic, Young Love Comics). His first television work was writing for Late Night with David Letterman for which he won three Emmy awards. His fourth Emmy was for his work on Michael Moore’s TV Nation. He received a fifth Emmy as a result of a clerical error, and he kept it. For twelve years he wrote “The Ethicist,” a weekly column for the New York Times magazine. In 2010, his first play, The Punishing Blow, ran at New York’s Clurman Theater. He is the creator and host of Person Place Thing, a public-radio program.
Photo Credit: Marlene Meyerson, JCC Manhattan
Ben Copperhead is a New York City-based composer, multi-instrumentalist, and vocalist whose compositions, performances, and arrangements offer a unique, contemporary vision informed by an unlikely range of influences, traditions, and collaborations.
Copperhead expresses his folk roots through his “otherworldly” banjo style and ethos of political protest. The influence of free jazz and figures like Coltrane, Coleman, and Monk can be heard in his contrapuntal improvisational excursions and alternate tunings. Polyphonies inspired by European classical and North African artists inform his modal and tonal explorations, while the use of samplers, processed drum machines, tape loops, and handmade electronic instruments were inspired in part by the experimentalism of Musique Concrète.
Copperhead has also collaborated and performed with the legendary Mavis Staples, Darryl McDaniels(DMC), Michael Bearden, Ed Askew, Nona Hendryx, Mary Lattimore, Eugene Chadbourne, Arnold de Boer (Zea/Th Ex).
Brent Arnold is a cellist, composer, producer, music director, and arranger. He studied with violinist Michael White (Pharoah Sanders, John Handy) and cellist Walter Grey (Kronos Quartet). He creates music for cello & electronics and composes for concert, theater, film, dance. Founding member of Ghost Quartet with Dave Malloy, Gelsey Bell, and Brittain Ashford.
Photo Credit: Julieta Feroz