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Straight Man Audiobook

Straight Man

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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 (761 )
5 star
 (359)
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 (229)
3 star
 (114)
2 star
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1 star
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Overall
4.1 (459 )
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Story
4.3 (455 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
 (8)
Performance
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  •  
    Janice Sugar Land, TX, United States 02-05-15
    Janice Sugar Land, TX, United States 02-05-15 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3949
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    262
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    4
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    "Goosed"

    Maybe if I didn't have such high expectations for Russo’s writing ability I would have enjoyed Straight Man better. And to be fair, the writing IS good – it’s the story that disappointed. Underachieving academics trying to survive their own mediocrity in an atmosphere of budget cuts and departmental backstabbing had potential and started out well, but the whining and self-pity got old and I just wanted to tell everyone to grow up. The choice of first person viewpoint didn't help, as supporting characters can only be known through the protagonist’s perceptions, leaving them somewhat flat. It seemed that Russo tried to fluff them up a bit through silly quirks, but it didn't work well for me. I much preferred the subtle ironic humor of “Nobody’s Fool” to the forced silliness of “Straight Man”. At one point Devereaux’s mother chided him for his literary laziness saying he had “become a clever man”. That line summarized my feelings about Russo’s effort here.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Claudine ESCONDIDO, CA, United States 09-22-17
    Claudine ESCONDIDO, CA, United States 09-22-17
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Couldnt Finish It"

    I tried to give this book a chance but it went nowhere for too long. The story seemed to have no point or purpose and the manner which is was constructed was just not enjoyable for me. Maybe it gets better later on in the book but I think after 3 and a half hours of listening - you should be able to get a book moving.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    The Way Life Should Be 07-02-17
    RATINGS
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    14
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    "If you work at a small college..."

    and either are or work with middle aged white men, this is a must listen. :)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sarah 04-02-17
    Sarah 04-02-17 Member Since 2016
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    11
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    "Other Richard Russo books are SO much better"

    Expected a lot after reading several others. Disappointed. Kept waiting for it to really get going- it didnt. Narrator was good though.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Justin Merritt 03-19-17
    RATINGS
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    7
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    "A worthy successor to Lucky Jim"

    Hits so close to home I couldn't stop laughing. Should be required reading to achieve tenure.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Zoe 12-13-16
    Zoe 12-13-16 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Keeper"

    Straight Man was a delight to listen to. Kudos to both the writer and reader. I will miss Henry's fine wit.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jonelle Camp Hill, PA, United States 08-24-16
    Jonelle Camp Hill, PA, United States 08-24-16 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Funny to the End- Especially for Academics"

    I thoroughly enjoyed this older novel from Russo. It kept me laughing right to the very end as its college department chair hero resolves his mid-life career crisis.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lauren Schweizer 05-21-16
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Sly, sophisticated novel"

    This has become my new favorite novel. I love the memorable characters, the well-developed and amusing plot, the surprising and satisfying humor. This is the third Richard Russo novel I've listened to this week and the best of them, I think.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Emmamom Broad Brook CT 04-07-16
    Emmamom Broad Brook CT 04-07-16 Member Since 2017
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    2
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    Story
    "I listened to the great reviews to my great regret"
    Any additional comments?

    Looking for a smart, funny, witty book I chose this based on the great reviews. I loved Confederacy of Dunces and thought Straight Man might make me laugh too. Boy was I wrong. I trudged 3/4 through and gave up. I couldn't bring myself to care about or like a single character, and the chauvanistic tropes felt tired and dated, and more often than not, creepy. Middle aged professors flirting with and sometimes sleeping with students. The professor who came out of the closet, attended sexual orientation counseling at the behest of his wife, and returns to the closet - his flamboyant white suit and fake PHD the basis of what makes this offensive take on homosexuality "funny." The socially outcast writing student, angry with all the pretty women who consistently reject and emasculate him writes long and prurient stories featuring graphic and endless rape scenes and even necrophilia. What a hoot! The goose on the cover and reviews talking about the main characters's threat to "kill a duck a day" unless his department gets funded made me think of funny scenes with Sonia the elephant in The 100 Yr Old Man Who Climbed Through the Window. Here, however, Hank chokes the goose, holding it aloft by the neck and makes his speech while the goose "with bulging eyes" flaps his wings and squawks frantically. I guess the fact that Hank is wearing Groucho Marx glasses and fake nose is what makes this scene funny, but this was about the time I found myself wishing I could get my time refunded, if not my money.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lauren Chicago, IL, United States 02-10-16
    Lauren Chicago, IL, United States 02-10-16 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Started Strong...."

    And ended weakly. The last quarter of the book was pretty boring. The amount of similar characters with similar names got kind of confusing.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • stew
    Radstock, United Kingdom
    12/3/11
    Overall
    "Masterful"

    Russo has a control over his craft which must the envy of other writers. He creates characters so real in settings so believable that you instantly forget this is fiction and assume you are reading about people you know. This is one of his funnier books but the deceptive simplicity, the easy pace and the genuine characters you expect from one of his books are all there.
    I love the unhurried way he allows this story to unfold, the subtle building of tension and the fact that I care about all of the people in the narrative.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • hfffoman
    Kent
    2/27/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Full of subtle wit and insight"
    What made the experience of listening to Straight Man the most enjoyable?

    A delightful listen from beginning to end, packed with subtle and wry observations on all the characters. Although the story is essentially silly and focuses largely on the characters foibles and weakness, it does so with wisdom and kindness.


    Have you listened to any of Sam Freed’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    The narrator of Richard Russo's Risk Pool was much better. Sam Freed is a competent reader and captures the subtle wit but isn't one of my favourite voices and there were many occasions when I was confused whether a sentence was dialogue or reflection.


    Any additional comments?

    I was so pleased with Risk Pool I went straight on to this by the same author. My enthusiasm is still high so I will try a third.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • J. Davis
    London
    12/31/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Good story let down by a poor narration."
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    This was an enjoyable story which was time well spent, marred by the fact that Sam Freed's narration is devoid of nuance.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Straight Man?

    The episode where Hank first threatens to kill a duck a day was a highlight of the plot.


    What didn’t you like about Sam Freed’s performance?

    When there is a lot of dialogue it sometimes becomes confusing, because he makes little effort to change tone for each character. Otherwise, he is quite good in his delivery.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Alice
    Derby, United Kingdom
    4/7/13
    Overall
    "Loved it"

    I have long been a fan of Richard Russo and particularly have enjoyed listening to his books as talking books, as the readers bring the characters to life so well.



    This book kept me involved from start to finish. I loved the different characters and their (often surprising) interactions. Sometimes I felt the 'hero' went too far but he always then did something that redeemed him - in my view.



    At the end, I felt I had lost some good friends and I look forward to listening to another book by the same author, also to listening to this again after a few months.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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