Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Straight Man by Richard Russo

Simply, Straight Man is superb.

To wit, a few examples that left me breathless. Then I will leave you to get your keys, drive to the bookstore (an indie, please), purchase your own copy and get down to reading a brilliant, funny, sad and rewarding work.

This, from page sixteen (!) from a novel almost four hundred pages long about a minor character:

"Looking at Gracie now, you had a hard time remembering the effect of her hiring twenty years ago. She had been like one of those dancers in black fishnet stockings and tails and a top hat, being passed from hand to sweaty hand over the heads of an otherwise all-male revue. As Jacob Rose, then our chair and now our dean, was fond of observing, every man in the college wanted to fuck her, except Finny, who wanted to be her. That was then. I doubt we could hoist her over our heads now. We're not the men we used to be, and Gracie is twice the woman. The sad thing is that anybody has only to look at Gracie (or, in my case, catch a whiff of that perfume) to know she still wants to be that woman. And, hell, we understand. We'd like to be those men."

Four pages later he writes this:
"I had not intended to belittle Gracie. At least not until I got started, after which it felt like the natural thing to do, though I no longer remember why. I don't dislike Gracie. At least I don't dislike here when I think about her. When I'm in one place and she's in another. It's when she's near enough to backhand that backhanding her always seems like a good idea."

I had forgotten what a masterful writer Russo is and I hope I never do again.

Now, go find your keys.