Lynetta's Reviews > Straight Man

Straight Man by Richard Russo
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U 50x66
's review
Aug 06, 11

really liked it
bookshelves: general-fiction
Read from July 24 to August 06, 2011

Empire Falls by Russo was good. I wanted a book for the plane coming back from Portland and this was the best of Goodwill's offerings. I've enjoyed it a lot. William Henry Deveraux is the temporary head of a dysfunctional English department in a run-down town in Pennsylvania. Hank's father deserted his family and returns. His mother has retired to the small town and is courted by Mr. Purty, whose choice of words is just terrific! He and his mother write editorials to the school newspaper. Daughter Julie and husband Russell are building a house in the same subdivision using the same house plans and the money from Hank and wife Lily.

Russo's descriptions of academia are just a hoot and capture the bizarre fights among the ranks. There is Campbell Wheemer who corrected the speaker and became "Or she, becoming Orshee to the department." Gracie's wearing of heavy perfume is the basis for her gigging Hank in the nose with a spiral bound notebook. Billy Quigley, a Catholic and constant drinker, forgets he has called Hank while Billy is in a drunken stupor.

And Occam, a white German shepherd, and the original principle of Occam's Razor, "one should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything," are both characters.

I enjoyed the humor of skewing academics, the annual threats and anxieties about rank and budget.

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