Richard Russo
Straight Man
Vintage paperback

On Super Dialogue (of which Russo is a master):

(“as if” and other ways to give your dialogue more power)

  • “that would be illegal,” Teddy said, but his voice didn’t fall quite right, leaving an implied “wouldn’t it?” hanging in the air. (19)
  • “It’s nice to be flirted with occasionally,” she tells him, though if I’m not mistaken this remark is aimed at me. (21)
  • “I know, Hank,” she says, as if she’d like me to understand that this isn’t all she knows. (33)
  • “How come you and Mom never jog together?” my daughter asks so seriously that I’m momentarily puzzled. I’ve heard the words, but the tone of my daughter’s voice suggests a different sort of question entirely, something more on the order of “How come you and Mom have separate bedrooms?” (46)
  • “You’re supposed to know,” Julie explains. “You’re supposed to pay attention.” I could be wrong, but I get the feeling that this remark is addressed to Russell more than me, and from the look on his face, I’d say he’s come to the same conclusion. (47)

On why I didn’t finish this book:

That I did not finish a book often reflects nothing other than my mood at the moment I’m reading it. Sometimes I’m too impatient for a lovely slow beginning. Sometimes I want a book I don’t have to struggle through. Sometimes I want a book that will wrap itself around my heart and not let go until the last word. Straight Man is well written as you can see from the passages above. It’s funny. And it’s clever. I recommend it if or when you’re in that kind of mood.

    • Often your subjects are trivial, and even then…you lack high seriousness, Henry. Weight, for want of a better word. There, I’ve said it. I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but the truth is that there’s nothing more shallow than cleverness. You’ve become a clever man.” (his mother) (92)

On writing workshops:

  • “I have to go teach a class.” … “Oh, yes,”she recalls. “The one where everybody talks but you….Before you illuminate all those young minds with your eloquent silence, would you mind…” (94)