Straight Man

In this uproarious new 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 partIn this uproarious new 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 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.
Straight Man In this uproarious new 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

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    Richard Russo
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    Published :2018-03-19T12:53:07+00:00

1 thought on “Straight Man”

  1. Another good story from Richard Russo – I previously reviewed Empire Falls.This one is studded with humor. It’s really an academic novel, centered on a 49-year old professor (mid-life crisis?) at a lower-tier university, perhaps a branch campus, in a by-passed town in Pennsylvania. He is in the “sandwich generation” with a wife, whom he loves, who is a school principal, and two daughters. One married daughter lives in town and they worry about her financial situation and that she might b [...]

  2. Dear Mr Russo,I've just finishedStraight Man; the fourth of your books that I've read including Empire Falls. I thought Empire Falls was pretty brilliant but in my mind, you should have won a Pulitzer for Straight Man. I would have voted for Straight Man but damn, I'm not on the panel, but if I was, I'd vote for Straight Man.You know, I had to wait ages to read it; my library didn't have it. So I ordered it from that place with the same name as where the guy who may or may not have shot Kennedy [...]

  3. Richard Russo is one of my favorite authors. His books are always embedded in forlorn towns, circling around Dilapidated Central, suffering blue-collar havens, podunk as can be, with sell-by-dates splashed all over it. The people, towns, souls and minds have lost their initial charm while slowly sliding into obscurity. The atmosphere is always a bit depressing. The stories are always slow-moving, and satirical social commentary becomes the mainstay of all the conversations everywhere. FROM THE B [...]

  4. I remember almost nothing about Richard Russo's Straight Man. I imagine I laughed a couple of times, and I think I enjoyed the reading experience, but there is only one specific thing that I remember from the book itself. More on that later, though, because I want to talk about the peripheral things I remember about Straight Man.I remember reading it for a Literary Theory class (my first class at my new University) with one of my all time favourite profs, Dr. W---. He admitted, very early into t [...]

  5. 3.5 stars.This had parts I found interesting, some very funny scenes, some compassionate, and some where I tuned out. Russo's humor is wry and masculine. Often jokes are made at the expense of others (students, females, academic colleagues, and academia alike are targeted), but also self-deprecating. I adore him, but will probably always compare all his works to Empire Falls, a tough one to live up to. IMO.

  6. I have read enough of Richard Russo’s novels to become very familiar with his style of writing and storytelling. The types of characters he creates, the settings in which he places his characters, how he builds his characters and the type of conflict he creates in his stories. While some level of predictability comes with this familiarity, I continue to enjoy Russo’s work. For one thing, he makes me laugh. I also enjoy his characters and find myself rooting for them despite their insistence [...]

  7. "What ails people is never simple, and William of Occam, who provided mankind with a beacon of rationality by which to view the world of physical circumstance, knew better than to apply his razor to the irrational, where entities multiply like strands of a virus under a microscope"Straight Man is the fourth novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, Richard Russo. William Henry Devereaux Jnr, (Hank) at almost fifty, is interim chairman of the English department at the (chronically underf [...]

  8. He lives his life as head of the English Department at a western Pennsylvania University Married, he is the father of grown children, the owner of a house and dog. The fifty years of his life has been dedicated to the fine honing of obstinate vengeance, the satisfaction of tripping others up, the culmination not of progressing himself or family but the endless monotone of self-destruction. These are the consequences with which he sculpts himself, along with a sealed isolation protecting him from [...]

  9. Hilarious!!!! I imagine the guy from "House" playing this role in the film. Anyway, Russo is so funny and satiracle and wonderful and you will love and hate the main character because he will remind you of yourself in so many ways. Fabulous. It bothers me so much when people have such auper high expectations of a novel. IT IS FICTION, people, it isn't supposed to mimic real life, the characters aren't supposed to appear super realistic. The story is supposed to transport you to another time and [...]

  10. Loved, loved, loved this book. The main character, Hank Devereaux is just a mess, but a likable one. On his academic campus, Hank is the rebel without a cause. He delights in being unpredictible and stirring things up to often hilarious results. However, there's also substance to the novel as Hank, who is nearing his 50th birthday, is coming to terms with the passing of youth and with his own mortality. This situation and the insight granted the reader by Hank's first person narrative makes the [...]

  11. I'm beginning to wonder if Russo is a one book man. First, I'm getting tired of his smarter than everyone snappy mouthed wife of protagonist role that ran throughout this and Bridge. Second, this has got to be the all time most unlikeable leading male ever, and sometimes that can be fun (I don't know why but I feel that is more true with heroines) but here it was simply irritating. Hank had a constant barrage of supposedly clever lines that fell flat and just made him out to be a jerk and meanwh [...]

  12. I have long avoided academic satires for two main reasons. The first is that I myself am an academic of sorts and I already know how ridiculous I am. Second: the genre has always seemed to me like shooting fish (with PhDs) in a barrel.But now, I'm going on the academic job market this year, so I've decided some comic relief about my chosen profession might be a good thing. The main reason being: if I can tell myself on some level that it's all a giant cluster-cuss of ego-surfing solipsistic luna [...]

  13. [Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography (cclapcenter). I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.]I was all excited when I first stumbled across this in the "New Additions" section of the Chicago Public Library's ebook collection, because I thought I had randomly come across Pulitzer winner Richard Russo's newest title just minutes after it had been announced at the website, and therefore was going to get [...]

  14. The Richard Russo books I’ve read have all taken place in decaying New York mill towns. Straight Man varies that by taking place in a decaying Pennsylvania railroad town. Actually, it differs from his other books quite significantly by belonging to another genre—it’s a campus comedy, a genre I associate with writers like David Lodge. Russo does a hell of a good job with it, as would be expected. William Henry Devereaux is the creative writing professor at a small state college, a place whe [...]

  15. After looking over numerous reviews of this book I found the common problem the one and two star reviewers had with Straight Man was either a dislike of the main character or they didn't understand the humor. I'm not sure how much this should worry me? I found that my own sense of humor is eerily similar to the main characters and was laughing consistently throughout the novel.The title refers to a straight man in a comedy. One who sets the scene for a great punchline. I can easily tell you a wa [...]

  16. I have read this book at least seven times now, and I never tire of it. In fact, fairly recently, I was loaning a copy to a friend (since I always have one on hand), and thought I'd just glance through a few favorite passages, but ended up re-reading the whole thing _again_! I just can't get enough of this book. It helps, I suppose, that I was once ensconsed in academia, and so I've basically met everyone Russo lampoons so skillfully here. Don't get me wrong: I love the other novels Russo wrote [...]

  17. I don’t want to give Richard Russo’s Straight Man one star, but I feel I must. After the first fifty pages or so, I started to dislike it. The more I read, the more I disliked it. Now that I’ve finished all 391 mostly painful pages, I’m irritated that I allowed myself to get distracted by this frustrating book. I don’t feel as if I learned anything or was even sufficiently entertained. A friend recommended this book to me, telling me it was a story of academic dysfunction, a state we a [...]

  18. University life has served as an irresistible subject for some of the funniest satire in modern literature.After teaching briefly at Sarah Lawrence College, Mary McCarthy set the standard high with "The Groves of Academe" (1952), her acerbic satire of a liberal college for women. Just two years ago Jane Smiley, who teaches at Iowa State, lambasted a Midwestern university in "Moo: A Novel," (Random House) a bestseller that sprawled across dozens of strange and hilarious characters.The narrator of [...]

  19. Meh. 1.5. I finished it. Barely. That's about all I can say for the book. I bought it for $4 from The Book Barn a while back--after all, I should really read something other than science fiction or fantasy sometimes, right? The problem is, whenever I go outside my book comfort zone, my success rate tends to be fairly low. Ironically, when I went back to The Book Barn today (looking to get rid of the darn thing), they wouldn't take it back! I brought back about 20 books and 25 dvds--and some of t [...]

  20. The novel is droll, dry, wry, witty. An endless stream of one-liners and punchlines that roll off the tongue of William Henry Devereaux, Jr an English professor at a state college in central Pennsylvania. Having read Empire Falls, the protagonist in this novel is more proactive, decisive and optimistic. I enjoy the good natured wit of Russo and the way that he rounds off his story lines like a refreshing ellipse. His characters are fully drawn and unique individuals with eccentricities and nuanc [...]

  21. I love Russo's writing and the way he creates memorable characters with rich lives. But, the setting of this novel makes it more relevant to me as it is a small liberal arts college with our main character, Hank Devereaux Jr as an English professor. I was laughing at memorable conversations between the colleagues. I made note of several observations about the politics within this contentious group (it's the same in high school). I found the story meandered at times, but I liked the characters en [...]

  22. To me, there is no finer working American author than Richard Russo. STRAIGHT MAN was published 20 years ago, but it still resonates as a very humorous and engaging work of fiction. Russo does a serviceable job with our main protagonist, Hank Devereaux; at least in regard to our maintaining an interest in Hank's personality, musings, and adventures. The supporting cast of characters is also well rounded and fleshed out. Hank may be an English professor, but just like everybody else, he shares th [...]

  23. William Henry Devereaux Jr. (Hank) is the chair of a bickering English department at West Central Pennsylvania University, beset with budget problems and long-standing personal grievances. It sounds like sort of a dry premise, but the events that unfold over the course of the book (which I don't think takes place in much more than a week or two) are surprisingly funny. And yet it's not a comic novel - the story is told with great sincerity.The first thing I'll say is that, having read Russo's Em [...]

  24. A bitingly funny novel without ever being mean-spirited, Straight Man is a wonderful send-up of the foibles and inanities of academia. Most of my experiences in higher ed have been from the student side of things, but I've taught English Comp, attended numerous fiction writing workshops, and dealt with enough idiosyncratic faculty and administrators to be heartily amused (and somewhat frightened) by the accuracy of Russo's depiction, not only of characters, but of the ridiculous (and plain sad) [...]

  25. This has got to be one of the quirkiest novels I've ever read.Funniest sentence in the whole book:"It's not an easy thing to be left holding a piece of fruit during introductions."Other great lines:"I'm not a _____________, but I can play that role.""He was a small man. Left-handed. He walked with a limp. He served in India. So much is obvious, but beyond this I can tell you nothing except that he may have recently eaten asparagus."This is the fourth Russo book I've read, and I seem to be in the [...]

  26. Ahhh. Never has a book made me feel so good about not going into academia.William "Hank" Henry Devereaux, Jr. is the embattled head of a rivalry-tastic English department in a crumbling liberal arts college. Over the novel's four days, all heck breaks loose -- while his wife is out of town, Hank's department goes haywire, his daughter's marriage dissolves, his nose is mutilated by a coworker, he threatens to kill a goose on local television . . . oh, there's a drunken episode involving a hot tub [...]

  27. This is one of the funniest books I have ever read. It is hilarious from the Prologue (which begs to be read aloud)to the zany ending. William Devereaux is at that midpoint in his life where he realizes his life will never quite live up to his expectations. He will never live up to the academic reputation of his father, the college where he teaches flounders in mediocrity and chaos rules between the members of his English Dept. Russo's writing and situations remind me of novels by David Lodge (N [...]

  28. This made me laugh out loud which is something I never do when reading, even a really hilarious book. A down-at-heel college professor is bored with his job and deals with office politics and in-fighting among colleagues, it is a scream and ends on a chuckle which is hard to do.

  29. At first I found this book merely "funny" -- in an ongoing-chuckle (rather than laugh-out-loud) sort of way. Naturally it reminded me of my own 6 years as a grad student/adjunct professor in English departments, with perhaps even more backbiting than we graduate students were aware of. It seemed to me that the novel, set in an English department in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania, made excessive use of gags - our English professor hero donning a fake nose and glasses before the local TV crew [...]

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