The Straight Man

The Straight Man

A Novel

Book - 1997
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William Henry Devereaux, Jr., spiritually suited to playing left field but forced by a bad hamstring to try first base, is the unlikely chairman of the English department at West Central Pennsylvania University. Over the course of a single convoluted week, he threatens to execute a duck, has his nose slashed by a feminist poet, discovers that his secretary writes better fiction than he does, suspects his wife of having an affair with his dean, and finally confronts his philandering elderly father, the one-time king of American Literary Theory, at an abandoned amusement park. Such is the canvas of Richard Russo's Straight Man, a novel of surpassing wit, poignancy, and insight. As he established in his previous books -- Mohawk, The Risk Pool, and Nobody's Fool -- Russo is unique among contemporary authors for his ability to flawlessly capture the soul of the wise guy and the heart of a difficult parent. In Hank Devereaux, Russo has created a hero whose humor and identification with the absurd are mitigated only by his love for his family, friends, and, ultimately, knowledge itself. Unforgettable, compassionate, and laugh-out-loud funny, Straight Man cements Richard Russo's reputation as one of the master storytellers of our time.
Publisher: New York : Random House, c1997
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780679432463
Branch Call Number: Fiction
Characteristics: xvii, 391 p. ; 24 cm


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Nov 06, 2016

An intense, chaotic, ultimately sensible story of a few days in the life of a professor in the feuding English department of a middling state university in central Pennsylvania. Well-written, engaging, funny, poignant and long enough to be satisfying.

Nov 08, 2014

Good style, funny at times.
I thought it was written in the seventies. It seems that not much changed in academia.

Oct 17, 2014

I've known about Richard Russo for a while, but just started reading him this year and am devouring his work, which I think puts him at the forefront of contemporary American novelists. Like Irving, he has little interest in trends, post-modernism, or experimentalism. He's a proudly old fashioned, populist novelist who rather than trying to bend words in new ways do what great authors have always done: try to make sense of how we live. "Straight Man" is not his best novel, but it is his funniest. He keeps the small-town setting of his other books, but this time the characters are professors at a college. He gently pokes fun at office politics, lit theory, and how every English prof. tries to write a novel. As always, his characters and settings feel authentic and lived in, like a familiar flannel shirt. It has a similar wit and feel to David Lodge's campus novels.

hobyzoe Aug 23, 2014

One of the best books I have ever read. Funny - yes, laugh-out-loud - but also excellent character development and superb philosophies. Writing this good is very rare indeed.

riwasows Jun 12, 2014

One of the funniest books I've read in a long time.

DebbyReese Jun 09, 2012

I love Richard Russo's writing - he's an author who makes every word count - no wasted rhetoric! This book was so true - and so very funny - I loved it!

Jul 21, 2011

I thought this was SUPER funny. The writing style is similar to my own way of saying things, so it made we connect with the story a lot. Also very heart-wrenching at times, at least to me. But definitely funny. Highly recommend.

Apr 19, 2011

This is one of the funniest books I've ever read, hands-down.

Apr 19, 2011

A funny look at small-town academic life colliding with a midlife crisis.

Mar 21, 2011

I suppose this was a funny book...but, frankly I found it a little too TRUE to be funny! Very accurate writing about academia and the foibles/plots/fears/desires of a college's professors and administration. A good book.

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