Straight Man

Straight Man

Paperback

By (author) Richard Russo

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  • Publisher: VINTAGE
  • Format: Paperback | 416 pages
  • Dimensions: 130mm x 198mm x 28mm | 340g
  • Publication date: 4 June 1998
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0099376210
  • ISBN 13: 9780099376217
  • Sales rank: 73,256

Product description

Hank Devereaux, a fifty-year-old, one-time novelist now serving as temporary chair of the English department, has more than a mid-life crisis to contend with when he learns that he must cull 20 per cent of his department to meet budget. Half in love with three women, unable to understand his younger daughter or come to terms with his father, he has a dangerous philosophy that life, and academic life, could be simpler, but he fails to see the larger consequences of his own actions or of the small-world politics that ebb and flow around him, as his colleagues jostle for position and marriages fall apart and regroup. The despair of his wife, and the scourge of the campus geese, he is a man at odds with himself and caught somewhere between cause and effect.

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Author information

Richard Russo won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for his fifth novel, Empire Falls. He is also the author of Mohawk, The Risk Pool, Nobody's Fool, Straight Man, Bridge of Sighs and That Old Cape Magic, as well as a collection of stories, The Whore's Child. His original screenplay is the basis for Rowan Atkinson's film Keeping Mum. He lives with his wife in Maine and in Boston.

Review quote

"After a while you begin to wish you lived in Richard Russo's world" Sunday Times "A funny and clever novel" Times Literary Supplement "The author has never been funnier-It is a testament to Russo's skill and originality that Straight Man often seems as fresh as if it were the first of its sort" Literary Review "Sentence by sentence Richard Russo shows that his is an eminently accomplished comic talent" The Times

Editorial reviews

A gloriously funny and involving fourth novel from the author of such comfortable-as-old-shoes fictions as Mohawk (1986) and Nobody's Fool (1993). Writing teacher William Henry "Hank" Devereaux Jr. is a one-shot novelist (Off the Road) who's settled into an embattled stint as department head at an academic sinkhole where he finds it prudent to simply tread water and go with the flow (anyway, "promotion in an institution like West Central Pennsylvania University was a little like being proclaimed the winner of a shit-eating contest"). Hank tries to keep his wits about him by adopting the philosophical principle known as Occam's Razor (that the simplest explanation of a phenomenon or problem is usually the correct one), but his life keeps getting in the way. A nearby married daughter is having husband trouble. The state legislature promises to eviscerate his departmental budget. Hank's "crushes" on various women, including a colleague's adult daughter, complicate his otherwise passive devotion to his no-nonsense wife Lily. And, in addition to possible prostate cancer, Hank is assailed by even more undignified woes: His nose is bloodied by a poet's notebook, and he's suspected (with good reason) of murdering a goose - and of even worse things - by a hilarious, vividly rendered cadre of fellow academics, townspeople, and students, each of whom is sharply individualized. Though the quests for tenure and priority are generously detailed, and though Hank's relationship with his long-absent father reaches a satisfying closure, plot is only secondary (or maybe tertiary or quaternary) in a Russo novel. This latest seduces and charms with its voice (i.e., Hank Devereaux's): Laconic, deadpan, disarmingly modest and self-effacing, it's the perfect vehicle for another of Russo's irresistible revelations of the agreeable craziness of everyday life. Besides, how can you not like a writing prof who counsels an overzealous student to "Always understate necrophilia"? (Kirkus Reviews)