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Thursday, December 7, 2006

Straight Man

Straight Man: A Novel by Richard Russo

8 of 17 people found the following review helpful:

November 23, 2002

I've read three of Russo's books: Risk Pool, Empire Falls, and Straight Man. Straight Man is the weakest of the three in my opinion. I think it's because William Henry "Hank" Devereaux, Jr. is a jerk and I spent the whole book waiting for him to get his comeuppance. I suppose he got a little comeuppance, but not as much as I would have liked.

The story is the familiar whine of a middle-aged man going through a crisis and "finding himself" over one week. Not an overly interesting story, but the wacky characters and situations make it worth reading. What I found strange is that Hank's father figures so much in his thinking, but really only appears in 3 scenes (only 1 of which is in present day). After all the hype about William Henry Devereaux, Sr., I expected to actually have him around more. And I would have thrown the book against the wall had William of Occam or Occam's Razor been mentioned one more time (much, much overused!).

Straight Man suffers the same problem as Empire Falls, where it seems Russo feels the need to tack on a happy ending in the Epilogue. The Epilogue in Straight Man was of the irritating type where the author starts telling readers all this stuff that happened afterwards, sort of like in historical movies where at the end they flash on the screen what happened to each character after whatever event. It's an irritating way to close the story, I'd rather just leave it open-ended.

Straight Man is an all right book, but Russo has better. I'd also recommend two other books. If you want to read more about a middle-aged man finding himself I'd recommend "Independence Day" by Richard Ford. And for wacky university faculty hijinks I'd recommend "Wonder Boys" by Michael Chabon. Both, I think, do a better job than Straight Man and are worth reading. Enjoy!

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