That Old Cape Magic

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First edition (publ. Knopf)

That Old Cape Magic is Pulitzer Prize-winning American author Richard Russo's seventh novel. First published in 2009,[1] the novel is much lighter in content than his previous work, the somber 2007 work Bridge of Sighs, which followed some upstate New York characters across several decades.


The story revolves around a past-middle-age former Hollywood screenwriter, Jack Griffin, who is presently teaching creative writing at a New England college. He loses both parents within a year of each other, and he travels considerable distance to attend two weddings during the same time. As he travels, and as he interacts both with his family and his in-laws, he ponders marital and family relationships. He is also mulling whether to remain in New England or return to the uncertainty of Hollywood.


Kyle Smith, a film critic for the New York Post, quotes a scene from the book:

"At her retirement party, a college professor rises to tell her colleagues: 'I wish I could think of something nice to say about you people and this university. I really do. But the truth we dare not utter is that ours is a distinctly second-rate institution, as are the vast majority of our students, as are we.'"

Mr. Smith says that scene "is, like so many in Richard Russo's writing, both cheerfully impertinent and stingingly true."[2]

Erin Adair-Hodges of Weekly Alibi writes:

"Russo isn't concerned with the psychological or stylistic fads of the moment. He is a clean writer who relishes the creation of characters who are flawed and smart enough to know it. Though That Old Cape Magic is a lighter entry than his previous books—both in terms of length and scope (no shifting perspective or cast of dozens)—it is, like all of his work, honest."[3]


  1. ^ Knopf, 261 pages, $25.95 released on 4 August 2009
  2. ^ Leaving Mom and Dad; That Old Cape Magic, Bookshelf by Kyle Smith, Wall Street Journal, 14 August 2009, p. A11
  3. ^ "They F**k You Up, Your Mom and Dad". Weekly Alibi.