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Straight Man: A Novelby Richard Russo
"[My] second reading of Straight Man was just as engrossing, entertaining, and satisfying as the first. Again, I found myself laughing out loud at Russo's pitch-perfect prose and the jokes that seem as effortless as they are hilarious. Again, I found myself enraptured with the book's eclectic cast of characters. And again, the pages of this meandering academic comedy turned faster than the most gripping Stephen King thriller." Chris Bolton, Powells.com (read the entire Powells.com review)
Synopses & Reviews
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 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.
"[A] hilarious, wise and compassionate novel....Readers who do not laugh uncontrollably during this raucous, witty and touching work are seriously impaired." Publishers Weekly
"[G]loriously funny and involving....Laconic, deadpan, disarmingly modest and self-effacing, it's the perfect vehicle for another of Russo's irresistible revelations of the agreeable craziness of everyday life." Kirkus Reviews
"[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." Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun-Times
"Russo can penetrate to the tender quick of ordinary, American lives." Entertainment Weekly
"Straight Man...is so funny, so beautifully written, so fully imagined, it is easy to forgive its familiarity....Russo is an easy, elegant writer. The book is beautifully plotted, and Russo makes you care about Devereaux and his fate. He also makes you laugh out loud." Joan Smith, Salon.com
"There is a big, wry heart beating at the center of Russo's fiction." The New Yorker
"Russo is a master craftsman....The blue-collar heartache at the center of his fiction has the sheen of Dickens but the epic levity of John Irving." The Boston Globe
"What makes Richard Russo so admirable as a novelist is that his natural grace as a storyteller is matched by his compassion for his characters." John Irving
"After the last sentence is read, the reader continues to see Russo's tender, messed-up people coming out of doorways, lurching through life. And keeps on seeing them because they are as real as we are." E. Annie Proulx
"Funny, bighearted, resolutely untrendy, ultimately moving...at once a delightful entertainment and a wise handbook for living." New York Newsday
"Richard Russo's novel is as simple as family love, yet nearly as complicated." San Francisco Chronicle
The author of The Risk Pool and Nobody's Fool delivers a brilliant new novel about a professor whose sense of humor is tested by the cosmic joke. Hank Devereaux, Jr., failed novelist, creative writing teacher, and estranged son of one of academe's stars, is a hero whose cynicism must be mitigated by his love for family, friends and, ultimately, knowledge itself.
About the Author
Richard Russo lives in Waterville, Maine, with his wife and two daughters. He is the author of three previous novels, Mohawk, The Risk Pool, and Nobody's Fool.
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