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Straight Man

A Novel

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Description

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly Review

Jun 02, 1997 – Picture this: William Henry (Hank) Devereaux Jr., tenured professor at a second-rank college in Pennsylvania, where he is chairman of the fractious English Department, faces TV cameras wearing a false nose and glasses, brandishing a goose over his head and threatening to kill a duck a day until he gets a budget. It's a vintage Russo scene, and there are others like it in this hilarious, wise and compassionate novel. Pushing 50, Hank is suffering a midlife crisis he will not acknowledge. After his miserable childhood as the son of a chilly mother and a downright icy father--a renowned professor, literary critic and adulterer--Hank has avoided confrontation with his emotions. He jokes about his mediocre job, his lack of self-esteem (his one novel, 20 years ago, got good reviews but didn't sell) and his role as goad and gadfly to his friends and enemies. During the course of the novel, which begins with the burial of one dog and ends with the interment of another, Hank manages to get himself in continuous trouble, in jail, in a ladies room (where he attempts to divest himself of the pants, shoe and sock he has peed in), in the hospital and out of a job. Meanwhile, Russo concocts an inspired send-up of academia's infighting and petty intrigues that ranks with the best of David Lodge, as we follow Hank's progress from perverse mockery to insight and acceptance. Readers who do not laugh uncontrollably during this raucous, witty and touching work are seriously impaired. Random House audio; author tour.

Customer Reviews

Ehh...

I had to read this book for a class I'm taking called Humor in Literature. The book has a lot of bland, sexual humor that isn't to my taste. It is an ok book, but if I could, I would go back in time and opt not to take the class as I found reading the book very tedious.

in the top twenty best books EVER

Thank god for writers like Richard Russo, who restore my faith in the great american novel. By turns hysterical and heart wrenching, this is a book for the ages-Dickens meets Irving. In a word- Amazing.

In My Top 20

"Straight Man" is my personal favorite by Richard Russo and ranks among my very favorite books of all time. I'm astounded a reviewer found it lacking, but I can surmise the person who wrote the review is quite young. After pondering it for a bit, I do see how Mr Russo's wit appeals better to those who've experienced the ups and downs of mature relationships, a mid-career crisis or two, and a viewpoint tarnished by having lived long enough to figure out that things rarely turn out at 40 or 50 or 60 as we had planned when we were 20. This truly is laugh-out-loud hilarious but with a poignancy that touched my heart. For those who've been around the block of life a few times, you will surely enjoy every page of "Straight Man."

Straight Man
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary
  • Published: Jun 09, 1998
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Random House, LLC
  • Print Length: 416 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings