That Old Cape Magic

Discontent isn’t listed among the deadly sins, but Richard Russo’s new novel convinced me that it should be. In late middle age, Jack Griffin, the main character, finds his life derailed by the kind of pervasive dissatisfaction that made his parents’ lives a disaster. English professors with Ph.D.s from Yale, the elder Griffins felt entitled to jobs at eastern schools—if not the Ivies, at least well-known liberal arts colleges—but instead find themselves stuck at a large state university in Indiana, in what they term the “Mid-fucking-west.” Refusing to live the life available to them, they move year after year among houses rented from professors on sabbatical, while their carelessness with other people’s possessions gives them fewer and fewer options. Equally careless about relationships, they torment each other by having constant and public affairs, and they neglect their son.


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