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Elkin, Stanley

(US 1930–95)

Elkin was born in the Bronx, in New York City. He spent thirty-five years as a professor of creative writing at Washington University, in St. Louis. In 1972 he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and spent his last two decades in a wheelchair. His fiction focuses on illness and obsessive behaviour, and his stories are typically about losers and near-madmen. The best place to begin is The Dick Gibson Show (1971), a novel about a radio announcer who develops the ‘talk show’ format, and comes into contact with the nocturnal and even hallucinatory minds of his audience. The book is omnivorous, trying to take into its comic vision all the most manic aspects of contemporary life. Next you could try Boswell: A Modern Comedy (1964), a picaresque story of a plain, everyday man who creates a book club only to discover that great authors are less than admirable. Perhaps the blackest of all the novels is The Magic Kingdom (1985); grim and hilarious, it's based on a real-life incident, in which children suffering from terminal diseases were taken to Disneyworld.

John Irving, Bernard Malamud, Philip Roth  CM

Additional topics

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionBooks & Authors: Award-Winning Fiction (Co-Fi)