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Straight Man : A Novel (Vintage…

Straight Man : A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries) (original 1997; edition 1998)

by Richard Russo

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,742792,142 (4.05)175
Title:Straight Man : A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries)
Authors:Richard Russo
Info:Vintage (1998), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:Fiction, Campus novel

Work details

Straight Man by Richard Russo (1997)

  1. 41
    Small World by David Lodge (browner56)
    browner56: Very funny treatments of academic life from different sides of the Atlantic Ocean
  2. 10
    Portuguese Irregular Verbs by Alexander McCall Smith (goose114)
    goose114: Another story of academia with a witty sense of humor.
  3. 10
    Moo by Jane Smiley (wademlee)
    wademlee: Academic satire, humorous & outrageous. Those in Academe will recognize themselves or their colleagues.
  4. 00
    Back in the Game by Charles Holdefer (hairball)
    hairball: Straight Man is what Back in the Game should be.
  5. 11
    Changing Places by David Lodge (BeckyJG)
  6. 00
    The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter (BeckyJG)

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» See also 175 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 79 (next | show all)
Henry Devereaux Jr. is the sone of a famous author and is a once famous author himself. He is now the head of the English department at a small Pennsylvania college. He and the rest of the school are facing downsizing and budget issues. Pretty banal stuff. Until Henry threatens to kill a duck every day until he gets his budget. Then the surreal romp begins. Excellent, funny read.

Couple quotes that stand out to me :

"It's later than it should be, and I'm farther gone than I should be, and the moment when I might have exerted my free will, held up my hands, and shouted "No Mas!" to the cheering crowd is long past."

"It turns out that scrapple is like a lot of food that's conceptually challenging. That is, better than you might expect."

The fifties makes first basemen of us all"


S: 6/3/16 - F: 6/19/16 (17 Days) ( )
  mahsdad | Jul 20, 2016 |
loved the writing! Very funny in parts.
  JulsLane | Jun 15, 2016 |
I always thought of Richard Russo's books as being about grumpy old men but failed to appreciate how funny grumpy, old(er) men can be. This book was funny and enlightening and I enjoyed it completely. ( )
  ltfitch1 | Jun 5, 2016 |
Humorous glimpse into thoughtful few weeks of rural Pennsylvanian professor's life. ( )
  Lylee | Apr 3, 2016 |
This is one of my favorite books of all time, passed on to me by my dear friend and fellow English teacher, Emily.
This novel's amusing protagonist reveals the absurdity of dysfunctional English departments. This novel had me sick with uncontrollable laughter, as well as constantly seeking the dictionary.

Excerpts from my bookcrossing journal:

Starting to feel that I'm too liberal with my perfect scores, but REALLY this novel deserves it! I never thought I'd have the time to read during this hectic time in my life, but I'm making time at the expense of sleep. I'm laughing out loud, unable to take breaks, looking up new words in the dictionary, and wishing this narrative would continue on! I will have to pass this on because it was sent to me in good faith by another bookcrosser, but I'm definitely buying my own copy because I can tell that I will be reading this more than once. Not finished yet, but totally immersed......

book rating: 10 out of 10
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Journal entry 7 by cmjuliep from New Hartford , New York USA on Tuesday, August 26, 2003

I absolutely LOVED this novel. Intriguing characters, sophisticated, hilarious prose, profound. Self-reflective--about writing as well as life. I'm someone who takes much of life too seriously so it was really interesting to see life from the perspective of someone the opposite. Even during a mid-life crisis and perhaps the worst week of one's life, it seems a lot more fun to have this character flaw! I plan on keeping a copy to read several more times as I can tell that I can extract more meaning each time, especially as I mature. ( )
  engpunk77 | Aug 14, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 79 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Richard Russoprimary authorall editionscalculated
Freed, SamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375701907, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:13 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

In the course of one week, Henry Devereaux, Jr., a once-promising novelist and now the middle-aged chairman of a university English department in hilarious disarray, faces an angry colleague, a curvaceous adjunct trying to seduce him, and a goose on local television--all while coming to terms with his philandering father, the dereliction of his youthful promise, and the ominous failure of certain vital body functions.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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