Richard Russo's Straight Man is a wonderful novel! A very entertaining, clever, layered send up of life in academia. Laugh out loud humor. Excellent satire, the characters are richly drawn with both affection and disdain. Although it takes place in a short period of time, the story has many different narrative strands -- all of which get tied up at the end, perhaps a little too neatly.
Although a lighter read than Empire Falls, Straight Man has an emotional center that makes for a moving ending and a satisfying read.