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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.
From the Hardcover edition.
Publishers Weekly Review
© Publishers Weekly
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."