I had jury duty Tuesday. All day. Fortunately, I took Richard Russo's Straight Man with me to read--and I finished it over supper Tuesday night. It comes in at book #47 on my 2004 reading list.
What a wonderful book! If you've not read anything by Richard Russo, take yourself on over to one of MamaT's favorite places in the world, Half Price Books, and get one, or a bunch, of his books. We read Empire Falls in my reading group, and I was so impressed with that that I immediately bought (but hadn't yet read) Straight Man, Risk Pool, and Nobody's Fool. I later received his collection of short stories, The Whore's Child as a gift.
Straight Man made me embarrass myself at the courthouse. I was sitting in the hallway of Criminal District Court #1, reading away. I got so tickled over a passage in the book that first I SNORTED, then I laughed out loud! I am quite sure that the other jurors were looking at me (OK, I KNOW they were looking at me) and thinking, "What is wrong with that woman? I hope I don't have to sit next to her in the court room." Oh, well, too bad for them. If they had, I might have read out loud to them from this funny, funny book.
It is a story of academia--but SO MUCH BETTER than Jane Smiley. The main character is Hank Devereaux, the interim chair of the English Dept at a small college in the middle of nowhere. A college facing budget cuts. Hank is a rogue, a mischievous troublemaker, who can't take all the political infighting seriously, so he just stirs up everyone. You just have to read it to get the absolute hilarity of a man with fake nose and glasses on, holding a goose by the neck, threatening to kill a goose a day (from the campus pond) until he gets his annual budget. And the next day, the animal rights protesters come out with "Stop the Slaughter" signs and put a little neck brace on the goose!
A comic novel, but one with serious thought underlying it. It is quite bawdy in parts. But read it. It comes with my highest recommendation.