A week ago, AMC released Lucky Hank, a new television series based on Richard Russo’s hilarious novel Straight Man. The novel and series tell the story of Hank Devereaux, Jr., an underachieving English professor at an underfunded Railton College.
The opening scene has Lucky Hank responding after a creative writing student who thinks he has great literary promise has read a particularly bad story aloud during a writing workshop. Devereaux criticizes the story’s “wandering point of view” and “distancing of the reader”—not to mention the theme of necrophilia. The sophomoric student contends that he may in fact be the next Chaucer, whereas the professor’s only published novel isn’t even available in the campus bookstore. Devereaux retorts by mounting his harshest critique of them all:
You’re here! You’re here! The fact that you’re here is evidence that you didn’t try hard in high school or show much promise. And even if your presence at this middling college in this sad forgotten town was some bizarre anomaly and you do have the promise of genius—which I’ll bet a kidney you don’t—it will never surface. I’m not a good enough writer or writing teacher to bring it out of you. And how do I know that? How? Because I, too, am here! At Railton College! Mediocracy’s capital!