Vintage Contemporaries

Straight Man

A Novel

Publisher: Vintage
Hilarious and true-to-life, witty, compassionate, and impossible to put down, Straight Man follows Hank Devereaux through one very bad week in this novel from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo.
 
William Henry Devereaux, Jr., is the reluctant chairman of the English department of a badly underfunded college in the Pennsylvania rust belt.  Devereaux's reluctance is partly rooted in his character--he is a born anarchist--and partly in the fact that his department is more savagely divided than the Balkans.  

In the course of a single week, Devereaux will have his nose mangled by an angry colleague, imagine his wife is having an affair with his dean, wonder if a curvaceous adjunct is trying to seduce him with peach pits, and threaten to execute a goose on local television.  All this while coming to terms with his philandering father, the dereliction of his youthful promise, and the ominous failure of certain vital body functions.  In short, Straight Man is classic Russo—side-splitting, poignant, compassionate, and unforgettable.

READ AN EXCERPT

Chapter I

When my nose finally stops bleeding and I've disposed of the bloody paper towels, Teddy Barnes insists on driving me home in his ancient Honda Civic, a car that refuses to die and that Teddy, cheap as he is, refuses to trade in. June, his wife, whose sense of self-worth is not easily tilted, drives a new...
Read More

READING GUIDE

The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your group's experience of reading Richard Russo's Straight Man.  We hope they will provide interesting new angles from which to examine this funny, poignant, and compassionate novel by one of the most compelling...
Read More

PRAISE FOR

"The funniest serious novel I have read since--well, maybe since Portnoy's Complaint." -- Tom De Haven, The New York Times Book Review

"There is a big, wry heart beating at the center of Russo's fiction." --The New Yorker

"[Russo] skewers academic pretensions and infighting with mad abandon...in a clear and muscular prose that is a pleasaure to read....I had to stop often to guffaw, gasp, wheeze, and wipe away my tears." -- Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun-Times

"Bursting with humor and insight." --USA Today