Straight Man, by Richard Russo
“What?? You’re reading something by someone who isn’t dead?!” Luke mocked in faux amazement (faux-mazement?).
Why, yes. Yes, I did. And it was funny. As in, stayed up way too late for several nights, ostensibly because I couldn’t sleep, but really because I couldn’t put Russo down and was quivering in silent, embarrassingly hysterical fits next to Luke, asleep with his head under the covers (man, we need a reading lamp 😉
And, no, not that kind of straight man. Think literary/comedic reference. There’s language, and some crudity, and several mentions of adultery. The witty protagonist William Henry “Hank” Devereaux, Jr., is not even an entirely likeable man; in the first 20 pages he gets his nose mangled by a colleague (those violent English professors!), and he pretty much deserves it. He is the king of irony and of distancing himself from everything and everyone around him, including the reader and maybe excepting his wife. I wasn’t sure if he’d succeed in making that turn required for me to actually start fully sympathizing for him by the end…but I think he pulled it off. (And even if he didn’t…Russo’s deadpan narration while describing the absurdity of the situations surrounding Hank’s midlife crisis is so hilarious, it was not time wasted). 4/5 stars on Goodreads.
Anyways. Reading Straight Man got me thinking of the type of comedy I really enjoy. Thinking out loud about it to Luke once, I realized that it comes down whether it’s comedy with heart. Louis C.K. is funny, but overall he’s just too sad and angry for me (that makes sense, really). I can take crudeness, but not gratuitously, not if there’s nothing underneath that makes me laugh and think, aw man, he’s right. That’s totally how it is, and how it feels, and he nailed it. And heck, I’m not above slapstick, and just this past week I’ve been reduced to tears — tears!! — by at least one poop joke. But darn it, put some heart into it (joking, not pooping, that is…..wahwahwaaahh…). (My favorite recent comedy — Attack the Block. Taking more recommendations now).
Now I’m a miserable 10 pages into Darwin’s Pious Idea, by Conor Cunningham.
It’s 400+ pages long with another 100 pages of footnotes (replete with references to Aquinas, Pope Benedict XVI, Jacques Maritain and the early Church Fathers), and all I want to do is read about more fictional shenanigans with Richard Russo. Yet I want to finish because a) I have an embarrassing lack of knowledge about evolution, and I want to understand it; and (intimately connected with a) b), I spent an even more embarrassing amount of time pre-college convinced that scientists are frauds and listening to amateur lecturers at homeschool conventions argue for a literal six-day creation AND the possibility that dinosaurs might still be roaming the earth. Omg. And we wonder why I might have a lingering complex about homeschooling.
On that high note, check out the other WWRW posts. Thank you, Jessica!