Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Straight Man by Richard Russo

I have a dilemma. The Salmon Rushdi review referred to it as a hoot. "Straight Man" by Richard Russo, also is a hoot in a somewhat different way, so hoot needs clarification. A hoot is a combination of funny (from ironic to laugh-out-loud) and complex in a good way. Rushdi's book was ironic with a dense and outlandish plot. Russo's book is laugh out loud funny with a compelling plot that is only slightly outlandish.
With that out of the way, let's continue. If you like "Empire Falls" or "Nobody's Fool" then you will like this book. For those who have not read either of the others, Russo gives you a man negotiating life's normal problems with humor and insight in a small town that has seen better days. In the case of "Straight Man" the town is equally down-and-out with the main character, William Henry Devereaux, Jr., being a college english professor with a wise-ass approach to life. The book hit close to home because WHD's dialogue sounds like what often goes through my head. It took a while to finally suppress most of the dialogue (but not the thoughts) because, as my father used to say, nobody likes a wise ass. In "Straight Man" many people do not like WHD for that reason. An equal number do like him because he is a funny, decent guy, but are exasperated by what looks like self-destructive behaviour. Most of the plot involves a week or so as he nears 50 and his wife is out of town. He's a man at war with himself but doesn't quite realize it. Following him to a satisfying conclusion is a fun ride through this interesting life. I'm pretty sure all of you will like this one.


Jackie said...

This does sound like one I might read. I have enjoyed all the other Russo books I've read, so far, but at the rate I'm moving through my current 2 books, it will be awhile. I can't keep up with all of you!

Becky said...

This does sound really interesting and one that I'll have to add to this ever-growing list!!!! Quit being such a literate family, I have too much on this darned list!