Christopher Roth's Reviews > Straight Man

Straight Man by Richard Russo
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's review
Jul 31, 2011

This was touted to me as the best "campus novel" so far, and I have to say that it is a good candidate for that, with the possible exception of Lodge's Trading Places. One of the challenges of writing about, say, a university English department is not descending immediately into broad comedy that only those with experience in English departments will find credible. There are a few such moments here, which lapse in the direction of some of the sillier moments in, e.g., Hynes's The Lecturer's Tale. On the whole, though, this book's flaws are compensated for by the introspectiveness of the mid-life-crisis-suffering protagonist and the well drawn supporting characters (within the protagonist's family at least; some of the university characters are a bit more caricature-like). Some extremely funny moments. Highly recommended, and I enjoyed every page. Though for those readers who are, like the protagonist, stuck middle-aged in a Rust Belt backwater because of an English department job, it might be a bit too close for comfort.

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