A Novelist's Take

We're just about done with Spitzer postings -- promise -- but since novelist Richard Russo is a favorite here on the 13th Floor (that's him ...
by | March 14, 2008
 

Empire We're just about done with Spitzer postings -- promise -- but since novelist Richard Russo is a favorite here on the 13th Floor (that's him at right, next to Maine Gov. John Baldacci), I thought I would excerpt his take for the Post on how he would treat Eliot's story in fiction.

He argues that the storyline would be more complex than the media's "white knight turns out to be a hypocrite" take. But he admits he has a hard time coming up with a satisfying ending -- or knowing how to portray the damage done to the daughters.

My fictional Eliot would be complex, would contain paradoxes. He would not be a hypocrite. My Eliot would believe with his whole heart in his crusades against the corrupt and the powerful and the privileged, even as he worked studiously to undermine his legacy. Fiction can accommodate such paradoxes, provided they're explained.

But I don't mean to jigger the facts; fictive Eliot will do exactly what the real Eliot has done, only my guy almost never imagines getting caught. And when he does occasionally consider the possibility, he trusts that there will be ample warning that disaster is imminent. For the most part, things in his life have happened slowly, especially the good things, and he trusts that bad things will evolve similarly. He will swerve at the last moment. The possibility of a head-on collision, swift and devastating, simply never occurs to him.

Even worse, though he knows the world doesn't work this way, he convinces himself that if he's caught, people will treat him fairly. Sure, he has shamed himself, but he's done a lot of good things, too, and people will remember those. He's always employed a kind of moral arithmetic, and he'll expect that same math to be applied to him -- all his virtues set up on one side of the ledger, his one weakness on the other. People will understand he's mostly good. By the time my Eliot realizes he's wrong about all this, it's too late. The damage is done. He has betrayed his wife, his children, his best self, and it's all his fault.

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