Screen legend Paul Newman has died. My very favorite actor, I’ll forever be turned on by “The Hustler,” made to feel infinitely cooler than I really am by “Cool Hand Luke,” amused and tickled by “Butch Cassidy” and “The Sting” and bittersweetly moved by “Nobody’s Fool.” There are a number of powerful, specific lines Newman delivers in that last film, the loveliest being his response to the question, “Doesn’t it bother you that you haven’t done more with your life?” Newman’s response, “Not often.” Then a sly, subtle grin, “Now and then.” It comes early in the film, and it’s a doozy. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo penned the novel from which that movie was made, as well as memorable works “The Risk Pool” and “Empire Falls” (the film version of which Newman starred in as well). Most recently, he offered “Bridge of Sighs,” another strong, emotionally epic piece of work to his collection. My favorite, though, has always been “Nobody’s Fool,” its calming wash of upstate New York quaintness, the cranky, endearing humor, the portrait of a man finally facing his mistakes and quietly seeking redemption. There’s a piece that involves a little boy returning to an old lawyer his prosthetic leg in a dark, damp tavern, and the layers and layers of subtext could inspire weeks of discussion, not too mention just the surface-level sentiment. Russo’s a master at small-town America and its fascinating people, the secret and not-so-secret histories that make life worth looking back upon. Tonight, he discusses his work, and maybe, if we’re lucky, we can get a few choice Newman anecdotes as well. Rest in peace, Sully. (Tom Lynch)
Richard Russo discusses his work October 2 at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 South State, (312)747-4300, at 6pm. Free.