T have the power it sed to Now I worry about kidney stones and prostate exams and future erectile dysfunction and all because this damned book has made the power of my stream a permanent obsession and in case you re wondering this is the ONE specific thing I remember from Straight Man What the hell is
with thatAs what I think about Straight Manwellwho cares I doubt Russo would care what I think even if he knew me What matters at least what I think should matter is that just the sight of Straight Man s cover that cheesy red thing with the drake or is it a gander brings back memories of Dr W MM and that girl And every pee I take calls to mind that cheesy red cover with the gander or is it a drake That s gotta be good enough for any authorShitit would be for me Hilarious I imagine the guy from House playing this role in the film Anyway Russo is so funny and satiracle and wonderful and you will love and hate the main character because he will remind you of yourself in so many ways Fabulous It bothers me so much when people have such auper high expectations of a novel IT IS FICTION people it isn t supposed to mimic real life the characters aren t supposed to appear super realistic The story is supposed to transport you to another time and place maybe make you laugh or cry or get angry but it isn t supposed to make you say wow that was so realistic just like real life just like boring real life Come on Do we really have to be that haughty Let s see any of you write a novel Another good story from Richard Russo I previously reviewed Empire FallsThis one is studded with humor It s really an academic novel centered on a 49 year old professor mid life crisis at a lower tier niversity perhaps "A Branch Campus In A By Passed "branch campus in a by passed in Pennsylvania He is in the sandwich generation with a wife whom he loves who is a school Pennsylvania He is in the sandwich generation with a wife whom he loves who is a school and two daughters One married daughter lives in town and they worry about her financial situation and that she might be in an abusive relationship His mother also lives in town and the word is that his father separated from her may be moving back in The main character s father haunts the book like a ghost and he does not appear in person ntil the end o Life s a duck or a gooseWhateverSometimes you just have to grab it by the throat and give it a good shake if you want to make sense of it As I tell my students all good stories begin with character and Teddy s rendering of the events fails entirely to render what it felt like to be William Henry Devereaux Jr as the events were taking place Richard Russo strikes gold againI definitely managed to get into the mind of Hank an English teacher at a small Light Structures - Structures of Light university in Railton Pennsylvania as he goes through a midlife crisis promotion in an institution like West Central Pennsylvania University was a little bit like being proclaimed the winner of a shit eating contest Hank s story is similar in many ways to those of other Russo protagonists that had won me over with their messy humorous heart wrenching attempts to make sense of life love family friends aging failure and everything in between Odd details andnexpected points of view are the stuff of which vivid stories are made What makes William Henry Devereaux Jr special in this typical Russo panoply of Bitter Blood (The Morganville Vampires, underdogs living in decrepit blue collar towns is his academic background As a teacher of creative writing Hank is allowed to include in his narrative and share with the reader a few of his writer s tricks a glimpse at the way he makes storytelling an art form He misses all the details that even an out of practice storyteller like me would not only mention but place in the foreground He s like a tone deaf man trying to sing sliding between notes tapping his foot arhythmically hoping his exuberance will make. Hree womennable to nderstand his younger daughter or come to terms with his father he has a dangerous philosophy that life and academic life could be simpler but he fails to see the larger conseuences of his own actions or of the small world po. Up for not bothering to establish a key "Teddy is a fellow English teacher an earnest fellow than a little in love with Hank s wife "is a fellow English teacher an earnest fellow than a little in love with Hank s wife his major failure is a lack of sophistication in his narrative presentation Hank with a published novel nder his belt although one written than two decades previously is ever ready to correct him I don t see how you could not kid about love and still claim to have a sense of humor Here I think is one key to Golden Turnabout unlock any of the Richard Russo novels despair is always waiting right around the corner ready to wreck our lives and the only way to deal with it is to laugh in its face Hank deliberately chooses the role of buffoon as he tries to steer his deeply divided English department through a perfect storm of budget cuts staff cuts and failed dreams Like the decrepit car he is driving Hank feels his life is sliding backward on an icy slope instead of climbingp to his house on a hill My spiritual position is the outfield True I might be a good target for shortstops to throw at but I m most myself ranging in the outfield after fly balls Russo is a master of the complex metaphor always finding an odd surprising funny angle to illustrate his hero s struggle It could be an old car a baseball game a poor goose on the campus pond a bloody nose from an outraged poet Hank seems to do a lot of leg pulling and clowning especially in the beginning of the novel but you can always feel the nderlying despair at reaching fifty years of age and asking yourself what had you done with your life with your youthful aspirationsup with thatas
"In English Departments The Most "English departments the most competition is for the role of straight man Humor is one way to deal with this despair and Hank has turned his goofing into an art form but there comes a time when you can no longer dodge the incoming balls I ve slipped into baseball lingo myself and I don t even know the rules of the game So what do you do when the going gets tough Flee from town or turn back and fi I have read enough of Richard Russo s novels to become very familiar with his style of writing and storytelling The types of characters he creates the settings in which he places his characters how he builds his characters and the type of conflict he creates in his stories While some level of predictability comes with this familiarity I continue to enjoy Russo s work For one thing he makes me laugh I also enjoy his characters and find myself rooting for them despite their insistence on repeating past mistakes with predictable results Not that any of s have ever done that Straight Man is excellent Russo fare I enjoyed my time with Hank and just like Hank I often wasn t sure why he was doing what he was doing He seemed to have no clear plan He seemed to be finding his way as he made his choices As a reader I felt like I was figuring it out as Hank was figuring it out Compared to some of Russo s other efforts though I felt that I didn t get to know the secondary characters as well as I would have liked Overall a very enjoyable read highly recommended to anyone who likes Russo He lives his life as head of the English Department at a western Pennsylvania University Married he is the father of grown children the owner of a house and dog The fifty years of his life has been dedicated to the fine honing of obstinate vengeance the satisfaction of tripping others Red Shoes for Lab Blues up the culmination not of progressing himself or family but the endless monotone of self destruction These are the conseuences with which he sculpts himself along with a sealed isolation protecting him from those others floating about himWe must discuss the writing style of this book It is both necessary and important There is no style This a not a studied Oullipian attempt at writingnder imposed limitations or an effort to be subversiv. Litics that ebb and flow around him as his colleagues jostle for position and marriages fall apart and regroup The despair of his wife and the scourge of the campus geese he is a man at odds with himself and caught somewhere between cause and effe.