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4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (11,660 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Richard Russo Narrator: Sam Freed Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: August 2003 ISBN: 9781415900987
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William Henry Devereaux, Jr., spiritually suited to playing left field but forced by a bad hamstring to try first base, is the unlikely chairman of the English department at West Central Pennsylvania University. Over the course of a single convoluted week, he threatens to execute a duck, has his nose slashed by a feminist poet, discovers that his secretary writes better fiction than he does, suspects his wife of having an affair with his dean, and finally confronts his philandering elderly father, the one-time king of American Literary Theory, at an abandoned amusement park.

Such is the canvas of Richard Russo's Straight Man, a novel of surpassing wit, poignancy, and insight. As he established in his previous books -- MohawkThe Risk Pool, and Nobody's Fool -- Russo is unique among contemporary authors for his ability to flawlessly capture the soul of the wise guy and the heart of a difficult parent. In Hank Devereaux, Russo has created a hero whose humor and identification with the absurd are mitigated only by his love for his family, friends, and, ultimately, knowledge itself.

Unforgettable, compassionate, and laugh-out-loud funny, Straight Man cements Richard Russo's reputation as one of the master storytellers of our time.

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Quotes & Awards

  • 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

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jocelyn | 2/19/2014

    " Highly recommend this book for academics. Moderately recommend for all others. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Matthew | 2/16/2014

    " I don't know that I've ever laughed harder at a book! My department adopted the motto W.W.H.D? "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kappy | 2/9/2014

    " I have heard about this book for years. Most of my family has read it. I was somewhat disappointed in it. The characters were annoying, and although I presume the author intended for them to be annoying it became tiresome for me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Vivek | 2/1/2014

    " Loved it, although not as much as Empire Falls. Russo's books always make me want to write. Loved the characters and the depiction of academics and professors. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Souvik | 1/29/2014

    " I think one word will be appropriate for this book 'hilarious' . "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cecile | 1/20/2014

    " I'm always dissatisied with Russo's portrayals of women, but then his portrayals of men are not very flattering either, so I don't worry about it too much. In the end, he is an entertaining storyteller. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joan Boyce | 12/31/2013

    " Loved this book! Academia, budget crises, quirky characters, and lots of humor. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Liz Good | 12/27/2013

    " Took me a while to get through this one. A week in the life of a snarky college professor in the middle of potential layoffs in his department and a mid-life crisis. It came together in the end, but most of the story felt pointless to me and I couldn't really connect with the characters. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Frank | 12/25/2013

    " One of the funniest books about being a college professor I have ever read. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jill Waldman | 12/10/2013

    " Funny, but doesn't really go anywhere - a book about academics and their politics. Russo is very dry and witty, but I got kind of bored. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lynn Kearney | 12/1/2013

    " 3.5 This book was very funny although the truths behind the send-up, having to do with academia are all too real and ominous. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Todd Hurt | 10/23/2013

    " Russo captures the hilarity of academia. I enjoyed this book but the ending came to quickly. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Randee | 9/26/2013

    " If you are or ever have been an academic, then it doesn't get much better than this one! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Renea | 9/23/2013

    " The is my favorite Russo so far. So different from Bridge of Signs and Empire Falls. Academia at its funniest. This group of characters were all great and keep we wondering what what would come next. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 James Barilla | 9/20/2013

    " I'm thinking this book should be read annually during finals week. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Anna | 1/19/2013

    " Almost as good as Empire Falls, and as a novel of academia it surpasses That Old Cape Magic. Made me laugh out loud in several places. An updated, more sarcastic Lucky Jim. The protagonist is even referred to as "Lucky Hank" by those who hate him. Absurd and clever. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ruth Hull Chatlien | 1/10/2013

    " One of the few books that made me laugh out loud. But the humor isn't mean and doesn't undercut the humanity of this novel. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sharon Pelletier | 1/10/2013

    " Cracklingly funny and wise - especially for those with experience with small liberal arts academia! *ahem* Recommended to fans of Sedaris, Eggers, Douglas Coupland's books, 'Then We Came to the End.' "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Brian Davis | 1/2/2013

    " weak, weak, weak. faint flickers of good humor, but besides that, boring and self-conscious. i'm sick of reading books about writers. garp is the exception. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lauren Shelton | 12/5/2012

    " I loved this book. I loved the story. Mostly, I loved the dry sense of humor. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sally Wessely | 11/19/2012

    " If you have ever worked in higher ed, or if you've ever been a part of an English department, you should read this book. It is so full of great one liners that i found myself chuckling all through the book. It is a funny/serious read that I could not put down. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mark | 9/19/2012

    " Not an all-time classic, but pretty funny? (The question mark is an in joke for those who read the book...) "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 K.P. Hornsby | 8/9/2012

    " Not my cup if tea; funny at first but ultimately depressing and depressingly long-winded. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Linda Nemec | 10/31/2011

    " Hysterically funny, but sad commentary on life as an academic. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jonathan | 8/21/2011

    " Straight Man : academe : : MASH : war "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Taylor | 5/24/2011

    " Laugh-out-loud hilarious. Somewhat week ending, but very VERY funny. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Heather | 5/9/2011

    " Probably the most I have ever laughed reading a book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Amy | 5/6/2011

    " Funny as . .. .Thanks to my friend Julie for the referral. The truth about politics in an academic dept. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Tapley | 4/27/2011

    " I actually think this is pretty well written, I just was so very not in the mood for it when I tried to read it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mike | 4/21/2011

    " 4.5 stars - some very funny parts, can relate to the characters "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Maureen | 4/17/2011

    " I am a huge Richard Russo fan, and this was an enormous disappointment. Predictable, overly wordy, and even cliche. I stopped 100 pages in. Hard to believe that he also wrote Empire Falls, one of my favorite books. Oh well; win some, lose some. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Roger | 4/13/2011

    " I loved this book - I love the way Russo writes - I can really relate to the characters and the settings. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sasha | 4/10/2011

    " Full of dry, sarcastic humor that had me smirking the whole way through. Makes a good case for the avoidance of academia-- a thought to seriously consider after having been introduced to the characters (pathetic bunch that they are) in this book. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Karen | 4/9/2011

    " I just didn't get it and gave up after 90 pages or so. Where were those laugh-out-loud passages that the book's fans pointed to? "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tamela | 4/7/2011

    " Another classic Russo; crazy fun with ducks, geese and professors. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Pvl | 4/5/2011

    " solid - funny. Good people, workin' stuff out, being sexy and dumb and clever. What's not to like? "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rayna | 3/27/2011

    " Not my favorite, but good nevertheless. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dan | 3/17/2011

    " This book is very funny...in a kind of Ben Stiller...uncomfortable way. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mike | 3/17/2011

    " My favorite of Russo's books, even though I like many of the others. My dad was an academic and Russo has a wonderful mastery of the politics of higher learning. I liked the dialog which is funny but not forced. Gentle, good natured humor. "

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About the Author
Author Richard Russo

Richard Russo is the author of Empire Falls, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He also wrote the screenplay for the HBO miniseries adapted from Empire Falls. He is also the author (and coscreenwriter) of Nobody’s Fool, which was made into a major film starring Paul Newman. He lives in Camden, Maine, and Boston with his wife.

About the Narrator

Sam Freed is an actor, voice talent, and audiobook narrator.