Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Anachronism In Richard Russo's Everybody's Fool?

It is hard to believe that I could catch an otherwise unremarked anachronism in a novel by a major novelist that was published by Alfred Knopf.  Well maybe it's just me, but we'll see what you think. The novel is Everybody's Fool by Richard Russo.  It is a kind of sequel to Nobody's Fool which was made into a movie starring Paul Newman.

Everybody's Fool picks up the same characters several years later (early nineties) in the "has seen better days" town of Bath in upstate New York somewhere between Albany and New York City. This is a group of people who have learned how to put the fun in dysfunctional.  

In Nobody's Fool, Sully, the character Paul Newman played in the movie keeps stealing a snow blower from the construction contractor he works for and gets into an altercation with an overzealous patrolman.  In Everybody's Fool, the three of them get together in the middle of the night to dig up a new grave to recover a garage door opener which is a key plot element.  The overzealous patrolman is now the chief of police and is the focus of Everybody's Fool, but old Sully still has a pretty big role.

And that is where the probable anachronism comes in.  Sully is reflecting on his last encounter with his parents, talking with his abused mother with his abusive father in the background. He is eighteen and has just enlisted in the Army.
She glanced nervously into the front room, where his father sat with the drapes drawn, as usual, the television on but the sound turned down.
That threw me for a loop as I thought it had been mentioned that Sully was a WW II veteran. That was confirmed a few pages later.
Word of his father's death came when he was in England during the final days of preparation before Normandy.
I should spell it out a little more for you Gen X and younger folks.  Hardly anybody had television sets in 1941 and it would have been an extremely remarkable feature in the home of a laid off alcoholic handyman,  And there was really not enough broadcasting going on for the "as usual".

The other possible anomaly in Sully's back story is not as clear cut, but I will try to make the case.  It comes a page later.
there was indeed such a thing as being too late, Normandy, the hedgerows, the Hurtgen Forest, the camps and finally Berlin
It was the Russians that took Berlin. On the other had American troops did occupy their section of Berlin on 4 July  1945,  So it is really just the implied continuity that I'm troubled by,

I'm not going to give up on the television though. In some ways I would like to be wrong and for Richard Russo to have an explanation as to how Sully's father had a television set that he watched all the time in 1941.

Peter J Reilly makes a small attempt to keep up with contemporary serious literature through the deal with Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn that sends him author signed first editions once a month.  Most of them are unread, but he does try.  All a result of the good influence of his son William who recently received a degree in creative writing from Pratt Institute.


  1. I'm afraid you have a little boo boo in your blog...The guys are not trying to recover a tv remote. They are trying to recover a garage door remote.

    1. I think it might have been because I had the TV on my brain. Regardless, do you think it is an anachronism?

  2. You are right. I cannot account for that error, since it was very important that it was a garage door opener. Go figure.

  3. Also, there are other other timeline issues. Where are Mr. Russo's and the publishers editors? Raymer's "aged" Jetta? - not sold in US until early 80s. Sully is 70, he joins army as WWII is on the horizon. So I guess the story is 1983.

    1. More like early nineties. Sully would have been born around 1923