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Straight Man by Richard Russo

Straight Man (1997)

by Richard Russo

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,929822,809 (4.05)184
Recently added byprivate library, Cdunger59, lings, tyringham, jpnygard, dmojoman, WillAnderson, sisypheheureux
  1. 41
    Small World by David Lodge (browner56)
    browner56: Very funny treatments of academic life from different sides of the Atlantic Ocean
  2. 20
    Moo by Jane Smiley (wademlee)
    wademlee: Academic satire, humorous & outrageous. Those in Academe will recognize themselves or their colleagues.
  3. 10
    Portuguese Irregular Verbs by Alexander McCall Smith (goose114)
    goose114: Another story of academia with a witty sense of humor.
  4. 00
    The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher (achedglin)
    achedglin: Both books have beleaguered professors and serve as academic satire. They share a well-crafted style and real understanding of character and their capacity for human foibles.
  5. 00
    Tomcat in Love by Tim O'Brien (sturlington)
  6. 00
    The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter (BeckyJG)
  7. 11
    Changing Places by David Lodge (BeckyJG)
  8. 00
    Back in the Game by Charles Holdefer (hairball)
    hairball: Straight Man is what Back in the Game should be.

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» See also 184 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 82 (next | show all)
Excerpts from my original GR review (Oct 2010):
- First reading was 2003.
- William Devereaux, Jr is a bit of a sad sack, his persona to me was comedic, Woody Allenish, so I couldn't wait to see what would befall him next.
- On second reading, I found some strains of credulity that didn't register with me the first time through (would he really wear the chinos that long? Shouldn't Hank have been a little more concerned about Julie's state of mind?, and the like). But on the whole, still a great satire of the academic life. And William H Devereaux, Jr really is an ass, isn't he? But a memorable narrator, and colorful character, warts and all. If you haven't read this, and maybe think you've already got Richard Russo pegged, give it a try. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | May 15, 2018 |
I didn't know Richard Russo could be so funny! I read Empire Falls and one of his other books (with a main character who is a real estate agent?). I like him but don't really relate. Kind of like Updike. This was genuinely entertaining. ( )
  Eye_Gee | May 8, 2017 |
Hilarious send-up of English department and campus politics at a fictional state school in central Pennsylvania that manages at the same time to be a touching portrait of a mid-life crisis. Loved it for obvious reasons. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 82 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Richard Russoprimary authorall editionscalculated
Freed, SamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Truth be told, I'm not an easy man.
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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)

» see all 3 descriptions

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