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Publisher's Summary

In this uproarious novel, Richard Russo performs his characteristic high-wire walk between hilarity and heartbreak. Russo's protagonist is William Henry Devereaux, Jr., 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 and true-to-life, witty, compassionate, and impossible to put down.
©1997 Richard Russo (P)2003 Random House, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"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 a clear and muscular prose that is a pleasure to read...I had to stop often to guffaw, gasp, wheeze and wipe away my tears." (Chicago Sun-Times)
"Russo can penetrate to the tender quick of ordinary, American lives." (Entertainment Weekly)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Thomas on 06-02-05

one of my favorite books

This was one of the most entertaining and engaging books I have come across in some time. The central character is an interesa fascinating,irritating, yet lovably hilarious excuse for a grown-up. He was a wonderful mixture of insightfulness and cluelessness. There are some terrific moments along the way that had me falling out of my chair with laughter-- then I'd climb back in to my chair to "re-read" the passage again and enjoy it once more. My wife was so intrigued by how I gleefully devoured this book that she had to read it herself. She loved it too! And so have each of my friends who I have convinced to read it.

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10 of 10 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Jeffrey A. Sherman on 01-09-04

Shockingly good

I bought this book after seeing it in a Staff Recommendations rack. It is the funniest non Comedy book I have ever read. I have bought copies for several friends and have read several Russo books since. He is terrific.

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By stew on 12-03-11


Russo has a control over his craft which must the envy of other writers. He creates characters so real in settings so believable that you instantly forget this is fiction and assume you are reading about people you know. This is one of his funnier books but the deceptive simplicity, the easy pace and the genuine characters you expect from one of his books are all there.
I love the unhurried way he allows this story to unfold, the subtle building of tension and the fact that I care about all of the people in the narrative.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By hfffoman on 02-27-14

Full of subtle wit and insight

What made the experience of listening to Straight Man the most enjoyable?

A delightful listen from beginning to end, packed with subtle and wry observations on all the characters. Although the story is essentially silly and focuses largely on the characters foibles and weakness, it does so with wisdom and kindness.

Have you listened to any of Sam Freed’s other performances? How does this one compare?

The narrator of Richard Russo's Risk Pool was much better. Sam Freed is a competent reader and captures the subtle wit but isn't one of my favourite voices and there were many occasions when I was confused whether a sentence was dialogue or reflection.

Any additional comments?

I was so pleased with Risk Pool I went straight on to this by the same author. My enthusiasm is still high so I will try a third.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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