Straight Man, Richard Russo, Random House, 1997, 391 pp
This reading group pick is Richard Russo's fourth novel. William Henry Devereaux, Jr is the chairman of the English department at a small Pennsylvania university. Campus politics, budget issues and changing mores should make Will's job stressful but he appears to be above it all with his witty, carefree but rebellious manner. Is he though?
He wanted to be a novelist yet only has one slim book from his younger years to his credit. He has huge daddy issues, a detachment from his grown daughters, and a philosophical attitude toward his wife of many years.
When the wife goes out of town for a week, Will's life begins to spiral downward. The novel takes place over those seven days. In our house, the gag is that my husband of almost 39 years needs supervision. Things go wrong when I am away. So I found that aspect of the novel quite hilarious.
Some, no many, of the incidents in which Will finds himself border on slapstick. Russo got lots of laughs out of me. In the end though, I felt that while I was entertained I never cared that much what might happen to a man who was not quite in touch with himself or with others. Mostly he got by on luck.
The reading group members liked it and we had more laughs discussing it.
(Straight Man is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)