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Straight Man | [Richard Russo]

Straight Man

Russo's protagonist is William Henry Devereaux, Jr., the reluctant chairman of the English department of a badly underfunded college in the Pennsylvania rust belt. 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.
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Publisher's Summary

In this uproarious novel, Richard Russo performs his characteristic high-wire walk between hilarity and heartbreak. Russo's protagonist is William Henry Devereaux, Jr., the reluctant chairman of the English department of a badly underfunded college in the Pennsylvania rust belt. Devereaux's reluctance is partly rooted in his character - he is a born anarchist - and partly in the fact that his department is more savagely divided than the Balkans.

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.

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (470 )
5 star
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Overall
4.0 (181 )
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Story
4.2 (179 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Jeanne Orlando, FL, USA 12-19-04
    Jeanne Orlando, FL, USA 12-19-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Best of the Best"

    Richard Russo is one of the best writers living today. He's funny; he's witty; and he's insightful. I'd recommend any of his books. But this audio book is really worth the time. It got me from Orlando to Boston. You won't be disappointed.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    nancy campione 04-24-10 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    162
    ratings
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    608
    48
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    1
    Overall
    "TEDIOUS"

    Although I've previously enjoyed Russo's work, this was disappointing. Tedious pace, tired humor, uninspired characters. Overall, I was bored.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul La Mirada, CA, USA 01-30-08
    Paul La Mirada, CA, USA 01-30-08 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    6
    2
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    0
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    Overall
    "Pedantic"

    Having thoroughly enjoyed 'Empire Falls' and 'Nobody
    s Fool' and reading the raving reviews here, I was sorely disappointed in this BORING stream of first person 'cleverness' about nothing of interest.

    I have a feeling that maybe this genre may appeal to academic insiders and admittedly, I dumped it at about the 4 hour mark. Maybe it gets better but I'll take a pass as no character or plot developed for me within my tolerable listening span.

    2 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    glamazon The Coast of Rhode Island 01-23-04
    glamazon The Coast of Rhode Island 01-23-04 Member Since 2003

    glam

    HELPFUL VOTES
    4375
    ratings
    REVIEWS
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    310
    FOLLOWERS
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    3770
    0
    Overall
    "Much Ado About Nothing"

    This is a book about nothing. And not in the hilarious Seinfeld way. More in the snail's pace soap opera way. I don't see how this book ever got published since there is no character development, no plot, no thematic consistency. The book demonstrates a facility with language yet paradoxically has nothing to say. It's no more than a bunch of shallow, gossipy academics living out their daily trivialites with an occasional good laugh thrown in. But David Sedaris??? Not even close.

    3 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eloise Pittsburgh, PA, USA 04-07-05
    Eloise Pittsburgh, PA, USA 04-07-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    6
    6
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    "I should have listened to the negative reviews"

    I was perhaps expecting too much when I heard this author was like John Irving, but I was still quite disappointed. The book lacks character development. Instead of following the main character through life and watching him grow, we follow a grumpy man while he stays grumpy and doesn't really learn anything new about himself. The book has some entertaining moments, but overall is a bore.

    2 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Leeds, AL, United States 01-12-05
    John Leeds, AL, United States 01-12-05 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
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    82
    10
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    Overall
    "Straight Man"

    With such a high rating, I was anticipating a really good read but was sorely disappointed. The book is, frankly, boring. The dialogue is clever and the author has an excellent command of the language and sentence structure. Not enough I am afraid...I found myself shutting off this book to listen to other choices. Just did not hold my attention.

    1 of 5 people found this review helpful
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