Monday, January 25, 2010

Pete Dexter's favorite works of fiction about families

Pete Dexter, whose novel Paris Trout (1988) won the National Book Award, is the author, most recently, of Spooner.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named his five favorite works of fiction about families. One book on the list:
Straight Man
by Richard Russo
Random House, 1997

The story of William Henry Devereaux, Richard Russo's middle-age university professor, begins with a remembrance of how, as a boy, he had begged his parents for a dog for years and then he finally got one. Devereaux's father, a well-known literary critic not interested in dogs or kids or, in the end, his wife, shows up one afternoon with an ancient Irish setter, who limps into the kitchen five minutes after arriving and dies. As his father buries the dog, Devereaux suggests naming it Red. His father looks at him in disbelief—name a dead dog? "It's not an easy time for any parent," muses Devereaux, "this moment when the realization dawns that you've given birth to something that will never see things the way you do, despite the fact that it is your living legacy, that it bears your name." Russo's access to the pulse of family attachments can make it all too easy to overlook the power of his great comic novels, like the hugely entertaining "Straight Man."
Read about another novel on Dexter's list.

--Marshal Zeringue