Straight Man, by Richard Russo, is a more recent review from Shelf Indulgence. Hank Devereaux, a fifty-year-old one-hit-wonder novelist, is now serving as temporary chair of the English department in a community college – not from a sense of duty, but for the devilment it allows him to wring from his dull academic life. He’s clever, inconsistent, argumentative, entertaining, and droll. Half in love with three women, baffled by his younger daughter, hopeless at academic politicking, he bounces from one crisis to another. Academic stardom, friendship, ambition, love, infatuation – as well as romantic and professional rivalry – are all brilliantly satirised in this novel. And for those who enjoy such things, there is a wonderful extended metaphor at the centre of the novel, which is happily resolved at the end.
Straight Man is a telling satire of academic life, writing, and – dare I say it? – writers. It’s also irreverent, funny, and thought provoking. Recommended.
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