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June 01, 1998 - Image 10

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 1998-06-01

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_

10 --- The Michigan Daily - Monday, June 1, 1998

10 T vMcignDiy-Mody.ue. ,19 "

Russo to read from novel 'Straight Man'

BY Elizabeth Lucas
Daily Arts Writer
"Inm not a great fan of academic nov-
els," said Maine writer Rictsard Russo.
"They're often very bitter, score-set-
tling, t'lt-get-even-witth-yosu exercises
thsat don't appeat to me msuch."
Fair enougts. So Isow did Russo hap-
pen to write oise of the best acadensic
novels to come along in years?
"Straighst Man," Russo's fourth novel,
tells the alternsately comic and beart-
breaking story of Hank Devereaux, Jr., a
sometime writer and Englisb professor
at a small Pernnsylvania college.
Hansk's seisse of humor and sardonic
wit pull him throughs one turbulent week
in which his long-lost fathser retuns, his
daughter's msarriage flounders, and hie is

attacked by auinmal-rights protesters.
Irmpirobable as it sosssd:, Rrrsso said
much of tse isovel is drawn from life.
"I've beerstecclirsg for over 2() years,
so I'd es storirsy tales of scadensic
luisacy inthr~e bsck of msy umind. Most of
that stuff caime right to Use surface,"
Russo ssid.
"I orsce hsd a colleague swho was dis-
turbed by Use fact thsat it was late spring
and he still did not hsave a fatl brudget;
and cosldn't promise jobs to the facrulty.
We were wvalkirsg by the duck ponrd arid
he was bemnoarsing his fate - 'The only
Uing I cain threaten 1o do is kill a duck a
dy tilt I get my bridget."'
This scene, as readers will recog-
nize, mirrors one of fire inspired plot
devices in "Straight Man," in which

I" uns the gsose becomes a Ist'rge to
I trils burdget demnds.'Ire scerse
also exemrsplrfiessts. blind of hsiumor
anrd parthos that cha~rasterzes Russ'o's
wistin" hrs work Ira'sbeen corspared
to Itha t osnrislarrlsminided Nu ritirs
'uc ,sCha rtleslkesa nd Johni
Iring.ii
-I've.becosert.quirte comfrortal vt rli
seers" comirc and tr'icsthtinrgs rright ip
close toielther siroiredon't Irive trnes to
birts.. Ruseso said I Isavs trid to
mield thre iso. I guress, tsnd six' oss' style
is iniformsed bs' lhat desire and thart
design.,
Rursso said Ire "started tlte" but his
'eerrnrig or ithe past 21) yea rs. "I
was is irking on a Ph 1). irr American
Lit. at ltre Unive'rsity 01' Arizona,. It
occuirred to inc Uhat mest of rrr friends
who swere having any fart svere in ts'
creative 'riling programn, so I crossed
thre harll."
Rursso wvent oil' to wvrite three novels,
"Mohasvk," "The Risk Pool" arid
'Nobody's Fool," wich was mrade into
a oevie in 1994. He said "Straightl
Man," desite its academsic as'ttinsgtins
much irn conunnis ith il these earlier
works.
"I started out to write Ure stoe of ai
man, only part of whose experience was

acadeici it intxolved Iis famsils' atru
brirnds rid his owsssesse of idenitys as
a matrnruin" 50t)Russo said.
"lhe.cliiiacters tmrke. more monarexy
arrd havesnriesdiicationrbut thess''re ai
kind of a Hire-collar coltlee.iOntic
tooedcsin. this college is kintdratfixhere
iri otherinoiesswseresest. It still deals
swith privilegeIfatherd sorts rutdlfam-
lies."
ILiks its tprsdecessors, 'Straright Man".
isalo iotd i rits tradirtionail, well-
crafted chraracters arid themies. Rurssio
said lthaIis teaching experiertee influi-
cerced Iis sts Ic.
"Teaching begisiig students is error-
mouristy benreficial to professional xvrit-
ens, becausse thresks'ep you very honest,.
Russo said. "Yen crirrI terchlthUe basics
to students rind Users goihoe'to vein
own work rind fuidge those basics. It
forces yen to reiniid yourself what thre
Imert iportaint Uhins s re."
Russo's work is rare ini its attetion to
these "ristinsportartsinrrgs,' and Iris
readers have nirch to anticipate. Russo,
whre tis previouisly worked em thre
screenplays rif-"Nobody's Fool" arid
"Twinlit," is currcurly developing ai
screenplray for 'Straight Mart."
Dre, inworks ownis the rights to tre
novel and may' make it leo a films.

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Richard Russo mistreats waterfowl in
his new novel, Straight Man'
Is thre iiis'itutr Russsiaird, ticis
also woirkirn" onmi'itisnorvsl.'Thnis ruse
will taike placs inia siall toInirsMaiia4
iinstead of as rioersiry settingr".rnd wuif
be moe'rsurroscenrt ofh Iis srltier sex'-
els.
Rurso's books genrialrly a pperrevery,
thireyerarsso rea ders sisa lii ha v lmwile
to wail for tieniextiIones
AmsdArboriies, Ihowever. canstrke ltre
timie go fasier by "'~eisgRusso irs Ierson
for free Ionsorroxv tnighti ahShi..at
Shaanr itns - arid perharps. soissedaix'
hb' wsatchng Ftumorsrquack thsisnv iirj
Itie Stnte 'heater.
TRUMAN
Continued from Page 8
showix Timsimcludeseri nug Trumain
awav rois faIther at rimsearly age.
D~irectoir Peter Weir does an excep-
tional job working his wvay throng
difficult suibjeet. I-he is aible tso hosld
Carrey's comic Itaents back, inster
foesing ron the gradrush progression
the story. the als does ni trap-oif-thse-limae
jobh in creating the toxinsrI Seahaven.
":The 'Iruman Show' is mne e'citinir'
nmovie that builhds tesin a s 'Truran
comes cloaser arnd closer to discovxering
the tutlh. Itsfocusin nirsthre storyand
ltre esolrutnin ohmts minsa nircter, 'Thre
'T'rumrnS 'how"i s isinslahnieeddnlter-
nartve tor this typiscal summrahre oaf
explorsinsaiesns iad lisa a xinuhiser

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