Straight Man

Straight Man

Book - 1997
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Random House, Inc.
The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your group's experience of reading Richard Russo's Straight Man .  We hope they will provide interesting new angles from which to examine this funny, poignant, and compassionate novel by one of the most compelling storytellers of our day.
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.

Baker & Taylor
The author of Nobody's Fool chronicles a singularly eventful week in the life of William Henry Devereaux, Jr., a once-promising novelist and now the middle-aged chairman of a university English department in hilarious disarray. Reprint. 60,000 first printing. Tour.

Publisher: New York : Random House, 1997
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780375701900
Characteristics: xvii, 391 p. ; 25 cm


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Nov 06, 2016

An intense, chaotic, ultimately sensible story of a few days in the life of a professor in the feuding English department of a middling state university in central Pennsylvania. Well-written, engaging, funny, poignant and long enough to be satisfying.

Nov 08, 2014

Good style, funny at times.
I thought it was written in the seventies. It seems that not much changed in academia.

Oct 17, 2014

I've known about Richard Russo for a while, but just started reading him this year and am devouring his work, which I think puts him at the forefront of contemporary American novelists. Like Irving, he has little interest in trends, post-modernism, or experimentalism. He's a proudly old fashioned, populist novelist who rather than trying to bend words in new ways do what great authors have always done: try to make sense of how we live. "Straight Man" is not his best novel, but it is his funniest. He keeps the small-town setting of his other books, but this time the characters are professors at a college. He gently pokes fun at office politics, lit theory, and how every English prof. tries to write a novel. As always, his characters and settings feel authentic and lived in, like a familiar flannel shirt. It has a similar wit and feel to David Lodge's campus novels.

hobyzoe Aug 23, 2014

One of the best books I have ever read. Funny - yes, laugh-out-loud - but also excellent character development and superb philosophies. Writing this good is very rare indeed.

riwasows Jun 12, 2014

One of the funniest books I've read in a long time.

DebbyReese Jun 09, 2012

I love Richard Russo's writing - he's an author who makes every word count - no wasted rhetoric! This book was so true - and so very funny - I loved it!

Jul 21, 2011

I thought this was SUPER funny. The writing style is similar to my own way of saying things, so it made we connect with the story a lot. Also very heart-wrenching at times, at least to me. But definitely funny. Highly recommend.

Apr 19, 2011

This is one of the funniest books I've ever read, hands-down.

Apr 19, 2011

A funny look at small-town academic life colliding with a midlife crisis.

Mar 21, 2011

I suppose this was a funny book...but, frankly I found it a little too TRUE to be funny! Very accurate writing about academia and the foibles/plots/fears/desires of a college's professors and administration. A good book.

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