March 26, 2015
Richard Russo leads a drive to save the Gloversville Public Library
by Claire Kelley
In the early 1900s, Gloversville, New York was the city that was responsible for producing ninety percent of dress gloves in the United States. Unfortunately, that fashion choice went out of style in the 1950s, and the city has fallen on hard times—even the “public pool and the recreation department” have had to close.
The future of the local Gloversville Public Library—a Carnegie Library—was looking dire, but Richard Russo—who grew up going to the library as a child—is coming to the rescue as the chairman of a drive to raise 7 million dollars. “I just have this feeling that if it weren’t for the Gloversville Free Library that I probably would not be a writer,” he told the New York Times.
In fact, Gloversville has been the inspiration for cities that have appeared in Russo’s books — Empire Falls, Nobody’s Fool, and Mohawk.
“I have invented so many fictional Gloversvilles,” he said. “Going back to the real place, there was something really odd about it. I just felt the way that Faulkner must have felt about his fictional county, probably the way Joyce felt about Dublin. It just behaves much better in my mind than in reality.”
But Russo’s writing about Gloversville is not without controversy. The town also appeared in Elsewhere, a book that describes the “horrors of the glove-making industry, with his corrosive chemicals that sometimes caused workers’ skin to peel off.” Russo claims this was his mother’s opinion of the town, not his own.
Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.