25 May 2007

Review - Straight Man by Richard Russo

Mike Snyder (found more often at The Master's Artist) recommended this book to me. Or he recommended the author to me. I don’t remember which. Point being, I loved it. Dry wit as well as compassion. Hank, the reluctant English chair of a small and shrinking university, sees a joke in everything, especially the growing absurdity of the squabbles in the English Department. In the laughter comes the realization of a life gone askew from missed opportunities and complacency. Russo keeps the drama subtle, even with the fake nose and glasses and threats to slaughter a duck on live TV.
By the way, Straight Man does not refer to sexual preferences but to the comic foil, the character who takes himself seriously, resulting in comic effect. Think Abbott and Costello.
Reading this book was one of the rare times when I read from the POV of an adult male and still became the character.
A last side note: Pete, if you are out there, of all the people I think would enjoy this book, you top the list.


Pete said...

I'm still out here (unless you're talking to another Pete). Thanks for the recommendation. I read Empire Falls and remember enjoying it for the most part. I'm going on vacation in a couple of weeks, so maybe I'll pick this one up to have something to read on the beach.

michael snyder said...

Funny, I started listening to this Straight Man (unabridged, of course...but the abridged version has none other than Hal Linden, aka Barney Miller reading) again today.

I love this book. Glad you liked it too.