As much as I enjoyed Straight Man, I wanted to like it even more. The humor was rooted in character, as opposed to the author constantly straining to prove how clever he is. While things were inflated a bit beyond reality, it was never to the point that it felt fake. Most of all, the lead character’s observations about the world around him felt true.
What keeps me from giving this four stars, though, is the lead character, William Henry Devereaux, Jr. I appreciated Russo giving us a character who kept the world, and his responsibilities in it, at an ironic distance, but it also kept me from caring as much about what happened to him. This is the opposite of what I felt reading Empire Falls. It doesn’t kill the book; it just kept it from being an all-time favorite.