Sunday, March 06, 2005

Rereading Russo's Straight Man...

I am now rereading for my course Richard Russo's academic novel, Straight Man, which I relished when it came out in 1997. I thought then, and think again now, that Russo really captures what midlevel academic administration is like, the juggling, the tradeoffs, the gray areas, the petty frustrations, the irony...but also the satisfactions and the joys of leadership.

When I first read the novel, I was serving as an associate dean, and now, rereading it, I have served (and lived to scribble about it) as a department head. I recall when I first became a head, albeit an interim one, I asked a fellow department head what struck him most about the position. He said to me, deadpan, that you will learn more about the personal lives of your faculty members than perhaps you want to know! True, true...but I too enjoyed careening about as their "straight man."

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