Richard Russo Straight Man: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780375701900

Straight Man: A Novel

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9780375701900: Straight Man: A Novel
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Hilarious and true-to-life, witty, compassionate, and impossible to put down, Straight Man follows Hank Devereaux through one very bad week in this novel from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo.
 
William Henry Devereaux, Jr., is 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, poignant, compassionate, and unforgettable.

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Review:

First Jane Smiley came out of the comedy closet with Moo, a campus satire par excellence, and now Richard Russo has gotten in on the groves-of-academe game. Straight Man is hilarious sport, with a serious side. William Henry Devereaux Jr., is almost 50 and stuck forever as chair of English at West Central Pennsylvania University. It is April and fear of layoffs--even among the tenured--has reached mock-epic proportions; Hank has yet to receive his department budget and finds himself increasingly offering comments such as "Always understate necrophilia" to his writing students. Then there are his possible prostate problems and the prospect of his father's arrival. Devereaux Sr., "then and now, an academic opportunist," has always been a high-profile professor and a low-profile parent.

Though Hank tries to apply William of Occam's rational approach (choose simplicity) to each increasingly absurd situation, and even has a dog named after the philosopher, he does seem to cause most of his own enormous difficulties. Not least when he grabs a goose and threatens to off a duck (sic) a day until he gets his budget. The fact that he is also wearing a fake nose and glasses and doing so in front of a TV camera complicates matters even further. Hank tries to explain to one class that comedy and tragedy don't go together, but finds the argument "runs contrary to their experience. Indeed it may run contrary to my own." It runs decidedly against Richard Russo's approach in Straight Man, and the result is a hilarious and touching novel.

From the Publisher:

"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

"Russo proves himself a master at evoking the sights, feelings and smells of a town ... He has succeeded in creating characters with the emotional weight of people we've known in real life."
--The New York Times

"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

"It's about time that people looking for a good read discovered the novels of Richard Russo."
-- Publisher's Weekly

"Richard Russo's novel is as simple as family love, yet nearly as complicated."
-- San Francisco Chronicle

"Self-knowledge, along with love in all its forms, from lifelong friendships to consuming sexual passions, is what this remarkably likable, beautifully written novel is all about."
-- Washington Post Book World

"Funny, bighearted, resolutely untrendy, ultimately moving ... at once a delightful entertainment and a wise handbook for living."
-- New York Newsday

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780679432463: Straight Man

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ISBN 10:  0679432469 ISBN 13:  9780679432463
Publisher: Random House, 1997
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9780099376217: Straight Man

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Book Description Random House USA Inc, United States, 1998. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. 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 goose, 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. Seller Inventory # ABZ9780375701900

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