Russo’s wry self-deprecation is the keynote of his writing. It comes through in the best and longest essay in this book, Getting Good, part-memoir, part-defence of talent and practice – of talent through practice... [But] Destiny Thief, for all its entertainment, feels cobbled together. His 2004 address to the graduates of Colby College, who included his daughter Kate, was possibly a treat for its audience at the time but in print sounds bogusly “down home” and too fond of its own geniality. Also, don’t advise anyone – especially a young person – to have kids on the grounds that “you won’t be a fully vested citizen until you have someone you love more than life to hand this imperfect world over to”. For both sentiment and sentence construction that gets an F. Read Russo instead for his wisdom on the writing life, and on the self-doubt that nibbles away at it. Most of the stuff an aspiring writer needs to learn, “about point of view and plotting and character development and dialogue”, can be learned, somehow. Unfortunately, he adds, “what can’t be taught is absolutely indispensable”.