In the course of a single week, Devereaux will have his nose mangled by an angry colleague, imagine his wife is having an affair with his dean, wonder if a curvaceous adjunct is trying to seduce him with peach pits, and threaten to execute a goose on local television. All this while coming to terms with his philandering father, the dereliction of his youthful promise, and the ominous failure of certain vital body functions. In short, Straight Man is classic Russo - side-splitting and true-to-life, witty, compassionate, and impossible to put down.
© 1997 Richard Russo; (P) 2003 Random House, Inc.
"There is a big, wry heart beating at the center of Russo's fiction." (The New Yorker)
"[Russo] skewers academic pretensions and infighting with mad abandon...in a clear and muscular prose that is a pleasure to read...I had to stop often to guffaw, gasp, wheeze and wipe away my tears." (Chicago Sun-Times)
"Russo can penetrate to the tender quick of ordinary, American lives." (Entertainment Weekly)
Mother, knitter, reader, lifelong learner, technical writer, former library assistant & hematologist.
Straight Man is really a 2.5 star book, but a good cup of coffee has made me feel generous in rounding. I was looking for something that was laugh out loud funny, and there were several occasions that I did just that, but not enough to make this a worthwhile read. Overall, the book struck me as more sad than humorous. William Henry Devereaux Jr. is the chairman of a small Pennsylvania state college English department. He doesn't take anything seriously, and the book evolves into a series of stories, conversations, ridiculous situations, and Hank's thoughts while the caricature characters worry about budget cuts and hit each other. Hank prattles on about Occam's razor and the status of his urinary tract far too much for me. I'm not in a position to judge whether this accurately reflects the personalities, interactions, and craziness of a college English department, but too much struck me as far-fetched and absurd. I will have to try some other authors (Jane Smiley, David Lodge) in search of good academic humor.
Hard to take this one out of my ears. I'm already a Richard Russo fan, and this book made me laugh out loud as well as chuckle quietly. An irreverent and likeable protagonist with beautifully sketched academic characters in outrageous, yet oddly credible, situations. Great read, goes fast, and I missed it when I finished.
I really enjoyed Nobody's Fool so this made it a hard act to follow. It was okay, but not terrific. Maybe I just didn't connect with the main character well. I wanted more on the relationship between hm and his wife. Maybe because I am a wife. Who really were his good friends? There were so many co-workers, I got confused which he really liked and which he didn't. Everyone, even the younger folk, just seemed to be having mid-life crises, jumping in and out of bed with anone they could. Narration was good.
This novel proves beyond a doubt that being funny while tackling serious subjects works. It works much better than pulling a long face and letting everyone "we're being serious here." I enjoyed this book, as did my husband. We laughed out loud many times. We did not miss the point - a man who feels as though his life is far too comfortable, but can't bring himself to risk what he has in order to be more of a person. It's not uncommon for a middle class person (this is an issue for women as well as men) in this country to wrestle with this issue at some time or another. Since many of the characters are of a similar age, virtually all of them are dealing with the same thing at the same time. So, a universal theme told with a delightful wit. Incidentally, don't take this as common to all Russo's books. The last one started out with a chapter so whiny that I closed it without going further. And it's considerably better put together than the novel he won the Pulitzer for. Too bad that the powers that be don't understand the artistry it takes to combine humor and drama - and that both things are often going on at the same time. This novel gets it, and brings the reader right into it.
The story of a broken down English department at a nondescript university. Russo is great at two things: the goings on between long-married couples, and places in decay. He puts them both together here and the story is often laugh out loud funny.
This immediately became one of my favorite novels. The characters are interesting, funny, and completely believable. (If you have spent any time working in higher education, you will able to recognize the characters and their foibles from your own experience.) I cannot say enough good things about this novel.
I only have two regrets: (1) that Audible does not have all of the author's books in its library, and (2) that the reader has not recorded more books of interest to me (I am not a fan of Danielle Steel or Robert James Waller) - he did a great job.
Live in Sydney, Australia. South African heritage. Love audio books. Constant company on my non-stop business travels.
This came across as a little self-indulgent and, on reflection, a petty piece of writing. The microscopic ego driven pernickety nature of academic politics is almost cliched so found myself not relating to the characters. The story chugs along with a certain predictable banality and I was waiting for it to be over. Maybe I'm being a tad harsh. Maybe my expectations were too high. It was too contextually tight - was looking for broader relevance and insight into the thing called human being.
Report Inappropriate Content