Book Reviews of Straight Man

Straight Man
Straight Man
Author: Richard Russo
ISBN-13: 9780679432463
ISBN-10: 0679432469
Publication Date: 6/8/1997
Pages: 391
Edition: 1st ed
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.

3.6 stars, based on 13 ratings
Publisher: Random House
Book Type: Hardcover
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

33 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

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Helpful Score: 3
The plot twists around a professor(sans PhD) in a small western Pennsylvania coed university, William Henry Devereaux Jr. by name. He tells the tale of a small segment of his life as he rounds age 50. His wife, who is a high school teacher, is out of town. It is time for the powers that be to set the University budget for the coming year causing great paranoia among the faculty. Hank, as he prefers to be known, is the acting head of the English dept. and is therefore in charge of the hiring and firing list. There are many sub-plots and an interesting group of characters. If I were grading the book I would give it a C because I couldn't identify with the main protagonist, and an A for clever, if doubtful manipulation of circumstance, characters, timing and plot.
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Helpful Score: 3
I LOVED this book. As a person who places a high value on seeing the ridiculous in life's ordinary moments, AND as the wife of a college professor, I enjoyed this book more than any I have read in a long time. The author captures the absurdities of the academic career, where the struggle for power is paramount. I found myself laughing out loud many times.
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Helpful Score: 2
Terrific Russo, but slightly different than other books. Rather than dealing with blue collar, small town America, it takes you into the politics of academia, providing a satirical look at that very incestuous world.
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Helpful Score: 2
Russo is clever and sarcastic and had me laughing out loud at the turn of every page. I agree with the New York Times Book Review, "The funniest serious novel I have read..." It was so nice to pick up a story that may have serious life topics, but dealt with them in a lighthearted, hopeful way.
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Helpful Score: 2
I read this book just as I was starting out as a faculty member at an unnamed university in an unnamed health sciences department. The funny thing was, all the stock characters in "Straight Man" were in my department, too! To describe my version of Russo's misadventures would be to jeopardize my life and livelihood (you know how small the academic world can be in any specialty); suffice to say that I was so very, very grateful to have a secret chuckle (and sometimes a very difficult-to-suppress guffaw) thanks to Russo's artful and hilarious satire of life on the faculty of an English department at a small New England liberal arts college.

Mandatory reading for anyone aspiring to make a living in academia, or anyone already suffering through academic life (time distorts horribly during those mandatory faculty meetings)!
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Helpful Score: 1
Fabulous. You know how sometimes you order dessert and the whole time you're eating it, you think, "Oh my gosh, this tastes so good..."? This book captures that wholly satisfied feeling of sitting down to something that's just perfect. Funny, real characters in sometimes ridiculous situations, complex relationship dynamics (wife and husband, father and daughter, colleague and department chair) make for interesting reading. I've read this one a few times, and every time, I thoroughly enjoy it. Perfect for people who have had experience in higher education (especially English). As with all Russo, it's not just comedy; Russo examines spousal abuse, infidelity, alcoholism, childhood tragedies, midlife crises, insecurities, bladder problems and waterfowl murder. Smart, smart book.
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Helpful Score: 1
I haven't quite sorted out all my feelings about it; part of me, probably most of me enjoyed it while I was reading it. Russo writes with a dry, clever wit that I appreciate, and he tells his story without unnecessary embellishments. His characters speak for themselves, and Russo certainly creates interesting characters. Set in a dysfunctional English department in a dysfunctional rural college, you get glimpses of a world that is likely quite foreign to you, and yet, you still feel a sense of companionship and of a shared experience at times. His main character, William Henry Deveraux, Jr., is someone that you feel for, but someone I don't fully understand, and likely never will. But then, he doesn't understand himself either - "Which is why we have spouses and children and parents and colleagues and friends, because someone has to know us better than we know ourselves." Anyway - an interesting book, though it sometimes felt a bit long. I'm also trying to connect the Russo that authored this book to the Russo that Jenny Boylan discusses in "She's Not There" and I think that I can see a resemblance. Loose cannons, but loyal in the end.
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Helpful Score: 1
Every book I read by Richard Russo impresses me anew with his command of writing. He can make me laugh in one sentence, and tug at my heartstrings with the next. Anyone who's worked in an academic environment will recognize the characters, the personality conflicts, and the petty political posturing going on in this story. A joy to read!
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Helpful Score: 1
Love this author. Never a dull read.
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Helpful Score: 1
Russo's main character, William Henry Devereaux, Jr. carries on a harsh inner dialogue about himself and what others think of him. It is easy to relate to this man who views himself as flawed and weak. The reader cheers him on and applauds his integrity throughout the book, hoping that he can at some point recognize his true value. As a bonus, this book is laugh-out-loud funny to boot. I loved it.
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Helpful Score: 1
Written almost like stream-of-conscious, this book is full of dark humor and cynical views on life. Not a book I'd take to the beach, but a look inside the mind of a troubled individual who mostly wants to do good.
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Helpful Score: 1
Really wonderful, hilarious book. I read it twice and recommended it to friends. I have to say, the part with the goose made me laugh out loud!
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A terrific book, shrewd and funny. Great for those who like academic novels.
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This was great reading. This is the first Richard Russo novel I've read and I am sure to read more. The characters were great and I didn't want the book to end. Well worth the time.
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Richard Russo is a great writer. I have enjoyed his other books. But "Straight Man" is my favorite, probably because I used to work at a university. His characterizations are spot on and hilarious.
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If you've read Richard Russo before then you know what you're in for. Interesting characters in interesting situation. Tongue in check humor.
Wonderful writer.
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One of my favorite books! A man's perspective on life with all its confusions told through a backdrop of a college professor's personal and professional experiences. Highly entertaining.
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Wry humor and multi-dimensional characters make this s good read. I recommend it.
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An amusing book about an eccentric's life in academia. As a former university professor of psychology, I had many laughs though out the narrative. If interested in the subject, I would recommend the book as a good read.
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russo is a great story teller who pulls you into wonderful narratives.
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Another classic by the author of "Empire Falls."
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One of the wittiest books I've ever read. Very entertaining.
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If you appreciate dry wit with heavy doses of sarcasm then you can't miss with this book. If that's not your type of humor then you may become bored with the main character's steady stream of one-liner's and jokes.
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Hilarious!!! I really enjoyed this book. Much better than Empire Falls or Mohawk. Anyone who has been a student or a teacher or worked in a university will love this novel.
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This reminded me of John Updike's "Rabbit" series - but funnier and with a much more intelligent, angst-ridden, and irreverent protagonist. Great book - one you want to savor.
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From the author of "Empire Falls"

"[Russo] skewers academic pretensions and infighting with mad abandon ... in a clear and musuclar prose that is a pleasure to read ... I had to stop often to guffaw, gasp, wheeze and wipe away my tears."
-- Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun-Times
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Hilarious, laugh out loud funny. A must read if you have ever worked in higher education!
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Good character development. I think I would know these people if I met them on the street--Russo masterfully lets the reader become intimate with their lives.
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Loved it!
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I loved this. It took me a while to get into it, but it is hysterically funny and still manages to be a fairly intense and serious novel. Richard Russo Rules!!
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Not as good as most of his books - but definitely worth reading.
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this is a paperback book
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Good book, very light wear, in great shape