Hank Devereaux, a fifty-year-old, one-time novelist now serving as temporary chair of the English department, has more than a mid-life crisis to contend with when he learns that he must cull 20 per cent of his department to meet budget. Half in love with three women, unable to understand his younger daughter or come to terms with his father, he ...
Hank Devereaux, a fifty-year-old, one-time novelist now serving as temporary chair of the English department, has more than a mid-life crisis to contend with when he learns that he must cull 20 per cent of his department to meet budget. Half in love with three women, unable to understand his younger daughter or come to terms with his father, he has a dangerous philosophy that life, and academic life, could be simpler, but he fails to see the larger consequences of his own actions or of the small-world politics that ebb and flow around him, as his colleagues jostle for position and marriages fall apart and regroup. The despair of his wife, and the scourge of the campus geese, he is a man at odds with himself and caught somewhere between cause and effect.
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Thoughts Inspired by Straight Man; a novel by Richard Russo
Hank Devereaux, Jr. has hit the wall of mid-life face first. During just a few days in the spring, we follow Hank as he ?looses it? in the absence of his wife, in the midst of a career in shambles and of a body that is beginning to fail. We?ve all been there, right? If not, just wait!
This is a laugh out loud funny look at a man in decline. How can we laugh at a man in decline? He is all of us ? and as we all know, if you cannot laugh at your troubles, you will cry. As we reach middle age, it is important to recognize that struggle is normal. We all get to the 40+ territory wondering if we took a wrong turn, got lost along the way, should have chosen A instead of B, and lament that we just can?t do what we once did.
But, we do not have to accept this as permanent. We often coast into our forties, fueled by the dreams and ambitions of our youth. At this point some of us have found that our dreams are a nightmare, or that the things that once pumped us up no longer do, or that we have veered so far off the path we wonder how we got here in the first place.
It is normal to reflect upon our life lived to date, to evaluate all of the good, all of the bad and make some decisions about how you want to live going forward. Where we are now is not a life sentence. This is the feeling we often have ? the mortgage, the children, the responsibility ? they all work together to forge the shackle that binds our life, that locks us here, now and forever.
I can laugh at Hank because I know that I don?t have to be Hank. A mid-life crisis can be a healthy experience if its done right. Too often, men look around and decide that they are unhappy with their wife or their entire life ? that a new wife, a new car, a new tattoo ? some THING will fill the void we feel in our hearts and souls. The truth is that NO THING will cure what ails you. The mid-life crisis is, or should be, simply a period of time in which we reflect on where we are in relation to where we wanted to be. We re-evaluate what we want, what we need, what is important, and what is missing. We recognize, acknowledge and give thanks for what we do have ? because most of us have a lot. Then we set a new course for the next stage in life.
We do not, or should not, chuck all of our ?perceived? chains and race off in our new corvette. The problems at mid-life have less to do with other people or things ? it is almost all about you. Your happiness at this point is contingent on how you balance the image you had of your life versus it reality. This is dangerous ground, because it becomes easy top overlook our gifts and focus only on what we missed ? creating disappointment and misery ? then we start the blame game.
It is essential that we all realize that it is normal to experience feelings of regret, remorse and disenchantment at mid-life. It is normal to question our choices, to wonder what-if and doubt your current path. Then next step is what separates the men from the boys. Boys play the blame game and run. Men get real with themselves, they ask the hard questions, they communicate with their partners, they create a new plan for their life (that includes those they love) and they begin on a new course to fulfillment and maturity. Remember, 40 is the new 30 ? or so they say ? take care of yourself and you have a lot of life ahead of you ? embrace it! If you need a laugh along the way ? read Straight Man ? it will put a smile on your face, guaranteed.
Peace & God Bless!
Sep 18, 2008
Duck, Duck, Goose.
A very fun and poignant novel about middle age and the ambiguities it brings to the body, relationships and the work place. This novel is set in Academia and nails the peculiarities of that exceedingly peculiar entity. How does one deal with long-term relationships with a spouse, children, parents, colleagues, and one's own body. In general, middle age does make one, in some sense of the word, ridiculous. This novel wallows in and celebrates that to wonderful comic effect - without skimping on the pathos - The pathetic hero of the novel finds himself in a weekend when the world spins around him like a comic hurricane. He is an eye to the comic hurricane that spins around him - even though he's responsible for a good part of it all himself. A fun, moving book - Highly recommended.
Publishers Weekly, 1997-05-12 Picture this: William Henry (Hank) Devereaux Jr., tenured professor at a second-rank college in Pennsylvania, where he is chairman of the fractious English Department, faces TV cameras wearing a false nose and glasses, brandishing a goose over his head and threatening to kill a duck a day until he gets a budget. It's a vintage Russo scene, and there are others like it in this hilarious, wise and compassionate novel. Pushing 50, Hank is suffering a midlife crisis he will not acknowledge. After his miserable childhood as the son of a chilly mother and a downright icy fatherĉa renowned professor, literary critic and adultererĉHank has avoided confrontation with his emotions. He jokes about his mediocre job, his lack of self-esteem (his one novel, 20 years ago, got good reviews but didn't sell) and his role as goad and gadfly to his friends and enemies. During the course of the novel, which begins with the burial of one dog and ends with the interment of another, Hank manages to get himself in continuous trouble, in jail, in a ladies room (where he attempts to divest himself of the pants, shoe and sock he has peed in), in the hospital and out of a job. Meanwhile, Russo concocts an inspired send-up of academia's infighting and petty intrigues that ranks with the best of David Lodge, as we follow Hank's progress from perverse mockery to insight and acceptance. Readers who do not laugh uncontrollably during this raucous, witty and touching work are seriously impaired. Random House audio; author tour. (July)
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