[F]ictive 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.Russo gives us some great insight into what novels can do that journalism cannot. He shows us how the novelist's mind works, moving from Spitzer to his wife, asking himself questions about behavior and then making up answers:
Even worse, though he knows that 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 that. He has 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 that he's mostly good. By the time my Eliot realizes that 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.
Why does she stand there beside him at the podium when he confesses? Why do they all? I feel uniquely unqualified to look inside her heart, to ferret out her motives.Of course, he doesn't really know, but he's got that arrogant novelist's belief in his power to take whatever bit of evidence is available and to find his way into the inner world of someone else's mind. What he sees may be thoroughly wrong but it will still in some way be right and, above all, it will be interesting.