May 15, 2008

Straight Man ***+

***+ 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.

Highly recommended.


Unknown said...

Yay!!! I love Robertson Davies!! Cornish trilogy rocks!

Have you tried any of Bryce Courtenay's stuff? I'm not talking about The Power of One, which is about South Africa, nor Winterthorn, which is autobiographical. Everything else he writes is set in Australia and historical. I read Jessica, recently. Mmmmm...not bad. Mind you, Winterthorn is probably a good start as any and it's more recent.

Jireh in Australia (aka Quintets)

Brad Whittington said...

Never heard of Bryce Courtenay, but I'll have to check him out. Thanks for the recommend!

~k/c~ said...

I am reading this post because I searched your blog for RUSSO- I wondered if you had read/reviewed him yet. I am on my second RR offering (Bridge of Sighs after Thw Whore's Child) and for whatever reason his writing made me think of you... got my answer,now back to the book!

Brad Whittington said...

Haven't read those two, yet. But I'm sure I will.