Nice to see that the mainstream can now tar reputations as cavalierly as the blogosphere. Newsweek launches the sort of shrill, sensationalist sally that is usually the specialty of the more abusive blogs around town. Richard Russo is a misogynist!
Russo's novels and stories contain multitudes, yet only two types of women: perfect bitches and perfect angels. Either way, these women are like smooth, shiny ball bearings, their interiors impenetrable and unknowable. None of them seems at all conflicted about who she is or what she wants. Shrew or saint, they are single-minded and laser-focused on their goals, which are either to aid (the angels) or thwart (the bitches) the protagonist in his pursuit of happiness.
We haven't read all of Russo, but we've read more than a little. In our memory, Straight Man (our favorite of his) and Bridge of Sighs (repetitive and dull) feature plenty of female characters who didn't fit Jennie Yabroff's labels quite so neatly. (Brilliant alive women? Maybe not so much. An Emma Bovary to be found? No ... as though they were thick on the ground. But a good deal more than bitches and saints, to be sure.)
Mind you, this is scarcely a full throated defense of Russo, whose fictional we generally find workmanlike, unexceptional. (Straight Man being a standout that we've returned to several times.) But labelling a hard working (and from what we've heard, generally decent) writer with the label misogynist simply because he doesn't write fully realized dimensional female characters - perhaps he's simply a writer who's reached the limit of his gifts - is a cheap shot that's beneath Newsweek. It's irresponsible and disheartening. The race to the bottom has a new frontrunner.