***+ Straight Man, Richard Russo, 1997
OK, I know, the plus is cheating, but this is better than three stars, but not quite the stop-everything hold-the-phone level. Pretty close, though.
Russo better watch out or he might replace Robertson Davies as my favorite author, just as Davies shoved Graham Greene to second place back a decade or so ago. Right now Davies maintains the lead because he's a dead white guy. Russo is merely a white guy.
As annoying as it may be to admit it, Snyderman introduced me to Russo. That guy has fairly unerring tastes so far. Like Davies, surely one day he'll fall off the pedestal.
This is the third Russo novel I've read, after Nobody's Fool and The Risk Pool. I haven't read the Pultizer Prize winning Empire Falls, yet, but I watched the Golden Globe winning HBO mini-series with Ed Harris and Helen Hunt, based on the book. I liked them all, but Straight Man is my favorite so far.
The incorrigible smartass William Henry Devereaux, Jr. is both infuriating and irresistable. This novel obliterated the elliptical test. More than once I checked the clock and realized I'd been exercising over an hour. Russo is a master at multi-layered stories buried in character. His recurring theme seems to be conflicted sons of dysfunctional fathers, explored from various angles in various books. He does it well.