Sunday, September 23, 2007

JOHN CHUCKMAN REVIEW: RICHARD RUSSO'S STRAIGHT MAN

RICHARD RUSSO'S STRAIGHT MAN BY JOHN CHUCKMAN, March 4, 2005


This has to be one of the funniest books ever written.

Russo brilliantly sends up the pretensions and foibles of the staff and administration of the English Department at a small Pennsylvania university. It's one of those truly dismal, mediocre places, rarely mentioned in the same breath as America's world-class institutions, but which abound across the country.

About the first third of this book is almost non-stop laughter. The pace slows for a while, but picks up again. Near the end Russo gives us one of the funniest scenes ever written. I wouldn't want to reveal any of it to spoil your enjoyment.

The book is a departure for Russo, most of whose novels are reworkings of another theme, his childhood relationship with his very unusual father. Russo's effort along these lines reached its highest achievement in the modern masterpiece, "Nobody's Fool."

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