I first read Straight Man over a decade ago, so I
knew what was coming, and still the story had me chortling within a few
pages. William Henry Devereux Jr. is a
difficult man, reluctant to follow the path trod by others, and downright
dismissive of rules and those who wield them. My kind of guy, so I can relate to his
independent impulses. Hank failed to
live up to his earlier promise, as he approaches his half century he is the
interim chair of the English Department in a cash strapped Pennsylvania university
where he amuses himself by goading his fellow academics into inappropriate and
sometimes violent reactions. Really,
there is just so much of Hank they can endure before going off the deep
end. Possibly what annoys his fellow
professors most is his refusal to become involved in university politics, or
share their fears over their diminishing futures. On the home front, Hank’s father is also a
professor, a very successful professor, who was much better at promoting
himself than understanding his son. Comic yet nuanced with deeper meaning.
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.
About the Author
Richard Russo is the author of eight novels; two collections of stories; and Elsewhere, a memoir. In 2002 he received the Pulitzer Prize for Empire Falls, which like Nobody’s Fool was adapted to film, in a multiple-award-winning HBO miniseries.
"The funniest serious novel I have read since--well, maybe since Portnoy's Complaint." -- Tom De Haven, The New York Times Book Review
"There is a big, wry heart beating at the center of Russo's fiction." --The New Yorker
"[Russo] skewers academic pretensions and infighting with mad abandon...in a clear and muscular prose that is a pleasaure to read....I had to stop often to guffaw, gasp, wheeze, and wipe away my tears." -- Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun-Times
"Bursting with humor and insight." --USA Today