Thursday, September 25, 2008

Richard Russo/STRAIGHT MAN

Richard Russo is my favorite author. And I confess I only read books I enjoy (I cannot bring myself to finish reading a book I may consider a flotsam of syllables.) So I will tell you right now my next several reviews will be glowing reviews of Russo books.

Straight Man is a terrific read for anyone who is going through a mid-life crisis. Also for anyone who likes to laugh and cry at the same time.

The story is character-driven. It is told in first person, present tense (my favorite POV), and takes place over the course of a week. It is about Henry Deveraux Jr.

Henry is a professor in a small, nowhere town in Pennsylvania. He's the classic wise guy, and makes fun of himself and everyone around him. He hates his job, his students, and his coworkers. Well, maybe 'hates' is too strong a word. But the funny part is that most everyone likes him. Those who don't are trying to reform him.

It begins with Henry as a child wanting a dog. When the parents finally relent and get him a dog, it's more like a statue of a dog. It's so old it hardly moves. Except to take a few steps, then die. This is the parable for his life and for the week that this story is based on. Henry is about to lose his nothing job, is afraid he might have prostate cancer, and worries his wife might be having an affair. All of it told in dry, sardonic humor.

I laughed so hard, so many times. I love Russo's characters. They have real flaws and are true to life. My only complaint (and this is small) is that I feel his relationship with his wife is underdeveloped in this book. While his relationships are all at arms length, I wanted to see what would happen to Henry, the character, in an intimate relationship.

Straight Man. Go read it now. Then email me and we'll talk. I love this author.


JES said...

Hey Chris -- years ago, Russo came to what used to be an annual spring writer's festival at Florida State U. He gave a reading that was so hilarious I knew I had to pick up the first book of his that I came across; Straight Man was it. I completely second your view.

(If you like Russo, I wonder if you'd like the late Peter de Vries too...?)

Precie said...

Ooh, a book we agree on! I read Straight Man a few years ago and thought it was great! Now I may reread it again. It was so clever and, to me, so real.

ChrisEldin said...

Thanks Jes and Precie! I'm glad you also liked it!

Peter de Vries...hmmm...never heard of him. I'm so behind on the literature curve.