Category Archives: Stanley Elkin

The Living End– Stanley Elkin

The Living End


Stanley Elkin is a Post War American novelist who has somewhat fallen through the literary ‘cracks’ (tho still on the critic’s radar)

I first heard of his early novels, A Bad Man and Boswell, when I was in college (oh so long ago)… He was at the time on the forward edge of the new wave of contemporary American fiction along with Hawkes, Coover and Gass (and Barthelme of course).

I remember an ancient PBS interview with him and a reply he made to the interviewer when asked: “What is the most important advice you give to young aspiring writers” (he taught creative writing at Washington University in St. Louis ), his response:

“Go and get yourself a word processor”…This was in ’79 and we were thinking what is a word processor???

I FINALLY read his 1977 National Book Critics Circle Award winner The Living End  and the reward was worth waiting for. The last time I encountered such megawattage prose and sparkling narrative voice in a post war American Novelist like this was maybe Barthelme, Gass, Hawkes or Coover (his contemporaries). This short novel is a messed up 20th Century Divine Comedy…Purgatory in the middle section, sandwiched by a little heaven and hell before and after. Elkin takes irreverance to a level so absurd, it loses its context. Elkin’s Hell is sadistic pleasure in pain, (and with bene’s).After reading this, I almost look forward to the ‘afterlife’ as much as reading the rest of his novels…


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