Straight Man by Richard Russo

I’ve begun reading several books this year but hadn’t finished one until now. I wouldn’t have started this one except I read an article about how there aren’t as many so-called “academic” or “college” novels being published nowadays. Those are the novels about college life, mainly the lives of college professors, such as Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis (1954) and The Groves of Academe by Mary McCarthy (1952).

Straight Man (1997) was one of the more recent novels the article recommended. The recommendation was so strong that I got a copy from the library. It’s written from the point of view of a disaffected, smart ass professor of English at a mediocre American college (the fictitious West Central Pennsylvania University). The descriptions of college life were amusing enough to keep me reading, but the good parts were offset by boring accounts of the professor’s relationships with his mother and children (his relationships with his wife and father were more interesting). If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t make that trip to the library.