The Living End
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The Living End

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  338 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Killed during a senseless holdup, kindhearted Ellerbee finds himself on a whirlwind tour of a distressingly familiar theme park Heaven and inner-city Hell, where he learns the truth about God's love and wrath. Reprint. NYT.
Paperback, 133 pages
Published December 1st 1996 by Quill (first published 1979)
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years ago, during the height of oprah's book club reign of terror, greg proposed that i start my own club at our store, in which i would create a series of stickers to be put on books, larger and more offensive than oprah's, showing my feelings about the book.

basically - a thumbs-up for books i loved

a thumbs-down for books i hated:

and something like this:

for "who knew i would like this book with such an awful cover and not-very-interesting premise even though both greg and tom have been tellin...more

Well that was different. If The Living End were a mathematical equation, it would look something like this:

Bible + (Voltaire / Postmodernism) x The Master and Margarita = The Living End.

Lots of linguistic gymnastics. A couple funny moments (not enough). Characterization all over the map (some good, one great, most plastic chess pieces).

You could look at this as an early entry in the bizarro genre. If you're a fan, you may find this at least a four star read.

For me, the most interesting a...more
While its satirical targets may be a little dated, and a little unsubtle, there are enough flashes of brilliance and paragraphs of perfectly polished prose to make this well worth reading. A minor work by Elkin, to be sure, but a fun ride. I found the first section to be the least successful, so keep going if that does not float your boat...
Apr 02, 2012 Alasse rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Cait, fans of "The Third Policeman"
This is Dante's The Divine Comedy on acid. Lots of acid.

It starts out with Mr. Ellerbee, a kind-hearted man who, after getting shot at his own liquor shop, gets sent to hell for thinking that Heaven looks like a theme park. Part II follows Ladlehaus, one of Mr. Ellerbee's assailants, as he gets relocated to a Purgatory of sorts for putting God in the uncomfortable position of making a mistake. Finally, part III features Quiz, a groundskeeper who is randomly killed by God because he wouldn't let...more
A big book succinctly told (only 143 pages in my edition). Don't be fooled by the "Inferno" references-- less and less about life and the living than about the metaphysics of death (there is a great collection of philosophical essays by this title, by the way) and consolation for those who think that the whole Santa's village aspect of Heaven is likely to bite them in the ass when they pass. Elkin's God is Old Testament/authorial, aware of his mistakes, and His creatures are all cranks and Augie...more
I really have to say that I liked this one. The overall plot was a bit strange, but the writing was excellent. You have to love Elkin's wit. It might even be my favorite Elkin so far, though I've only read this and "Criers & Kibitzers, Kibitzers & Criers." It isn't exactly the most complex book I've read, but it was a lot of fun to read. High weirdness.
There was an article not too long ago in our alternative paper out here in Seattle saying that the sign of a good bookstore is how many Stanley Elkin novels they stock. Beautifully laconic, this is a Divine Comedy for the David Foster Wallace set. Very funny, very Middle American, and very elegantly cynical.
I had high expectations for “The Living End” – Elkin is a writer whose name I hear now and again in good contexts, and whose stories I’d enjoyed in the past, and the novel (or triptych, if you prefer the cover’s diagnosis) was on NPR’s desert island books thing a few years back, with a convincing essay about its greatness prompting me to pick up a copy.

So I was a little let down when I read it. It’s not bad, in any way, but it isn’t great, either. The premise – a Hieronymus Bosch-like trip thro...more
I wonder, as Elkin's God does, about the audience for this book. It is a reductio ad absurdum of the biblical worldview. Elkin doesn't stop with the book being a reductio, a vast percentage of his sentences are reductios—that seems the main narrative strategy. Take a position and then keep piling on. He does a good job of exposing the absurdity. I wonder if he needed this much space, if it could have been done shorter, but then it is hard to take on eternity with a few short words. So who's the...more
This book was very, very disturbing and upsetting, but it sticks with you and makes you think about it, and I guess I see its purpose now. It takes commonly held religious beliefs and explores what the world would be like if they were literally true. (If you sin at all you go to hell, even if you're overall a good person and the 'sins' are petty and stupid, like taking names in vain, and hell is a burning fiery pit of eternal torture, etc etc etc.) I guess I would recommend this book because, af...more
Brent Legault
An excuse to speechify, if you ask me. Wasn't the Catholic Church (and all its spawn) already a parady of itself -- even in nineteen eighty-whatever? Did Elkin really need to launch this rather limp missle? Had it not been for so promising an opening paragraph,* I would never have laid eyes over so unnecessary a novel as this.

*Ellerbee had been having a bad time of it. He'd had financial reversals. Change would slip out of his pockets and down into the crevices of other people's furniture. He dr...more
This is one of my personal favorite books (I've read it or parts of it several times), and yet I don't recommend it to everyone. The story starts with Ellerbee, a liquor store owner, who gets shot and killed during a robbery. The book follows him and others through heaven and hell (literally) and introduces us to a hands-on, but quite petty God. That world view will turn a lot of people off. The author's take on God, Christ and Mother Mary are practically blasphemy, but I find it hysterical. The...more
Jun 07, 2008 Jeremy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone, even the semi-literate
Recommended to Jeremy by: People who've read it
This is the book that makes me want to write.

This is the perfect entry point into Elkin, a book that shows writers it's possible to write about EVERYTHING with humor, cynicism, and grace.

God is here, but he's an angry clown. The important players are like all of us, powerless in the face of steamroller life, but struggling through anyway.

After all, what other honorable choice is there?

A beautiful book.
this was lent to me after I browsed Elkin's short stories. it's deadpan humor reminds me of Vonnegut but lacks the cute-ness of Kurt's stuff. I laughed out at a few points, which rarely occurs when I'm reading.

I gave Elkin a try after reading Sam Lipsyte is a fan of him...
Sep 28, 2012 Cait rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Cait by: Alasse
Shelves: owned, read-in-2012
This reminded me of a shorter and smarter version of a Christopher Moore novel (no disrespect intended; believe me, Moore is no dummy). Only 3 stars because I thought it was strongest in the beginning and weakened a bit as it progressed.
The first 50 pages are great...then he goes to Hell and it's a bore.
Shawn Wilson
I wanted to give myself some time to contemplate this little journey I just took. Upon first impressions, I ended up not liking it very much. It starts out as almost a straight ahead narrative but about the time that he leads the reader into heaven (and hell) it really goes off the rails...and stays off the rails. I think the big let down was that I was enjoying his straight ahead narrative so much, that when we did dip into the metaphysical and all-over, seemingly omnipotent point of the book,...more
In line with my experience with the majority of Elkin's books that I've read: moments of pleasures interspersed with more frequent frustrations and discursions. Elkin is so talented and smart that we know he is frustrating the reader on purpose, for our own good. But that doesn't make it any more fun.
Smart, clever, very funny. If you've ever suspected that God is fallible -- not to mention vindictive and petty -- o-boy, will you enjoy this book.
One of Elkin's lesser books - don't judge him on it.
This book is only 150 pages, and if it were any longer i wouldn't have finished it. It's just a small idea of Elkin's to revisit Dante's trilogy, sort of in modern times, but very casually and tersely. I only got a couple of things out of it: the word "acrobacy," and the idea of "locker room theology" (so perfect now that football season has started.) I'm just a nerd so I figured that I would read this before George Mills, since he wrote it be...more
Jade McDonough
The Living End is a triptych that is (supposedly) a contemporary version of the Divine Comedy.
In theory, this could have been very good and very clever. In actuality, it just was awful. It's relatively short at around 150 pages, but I felt like I was dredging through a swamp of bad theological theory and lame jokes. I didn't get a single feel for the Divine Comedy at all. Aside from the presence of Heaven, Hell and (I suppose it was supposed to be) Puragatory, there was nothing to make that para...more
I enjoyed this book at first.
The descriptions of a heaven and hell - was great and I enjoyed the overall attitude of the characters in the book.

Then - when the character got stuck buried underground and there was a character with a strange name - I got bored. I think it got a little too fantastic for me.

I enjoyed the first half of the book - but have stalled for now.

This is on my Ipad - maybe I'll pick it up again when I travel again.
A liquor store owner and the afterlife. He's asking himself why, and at the end, you find out. I read this book when Tim O'Brien lectured at the University of Texas (it was on CSPAN) and referenced this title as an inspiration. Let's just say, it's not theology, but it is a theory.
At times this is truly beautifully written with a genuine love of language and wordplay. It's just a shame that the characters are somewhat simplistic and the gleeful tales of the afterlife tend to degenerate into incoherent rants....
Nov 27, 2011 Debra marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Stephen King recommended book as noted in Chapter 9 of Berkley's 1983 paperback edition of Danse Macabre.
While it provided an interesting view of hell, and conversely heaven, it just was not all that interesting of a book. Crass and blasphemous does not mean it will be funny and entertaining.
quirky view of what happens after you die. Heaven, Hell and in between. What God says about it all. Funny and a little thought provoking. definitely not a religious treatise.
I expected to like this a lot, but didn't like it at all. A shame. I think it's probably an extremely clever book, and I'm sorry to Mr. Elkin that I didn't get a thing out of it.
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Stanley Lawrence Elkin was a Jewish American novelist, short story writer, and essayist. His extravagant, satirical fiction revolves around American consumerism, popular culture, and male-female relationships.

During his career, Elkin published ten novels, two volumes of novellas, two books of short stories, a collection of essays, and one (unproduced) screenplay. Elkin's work revolves about Americ...more
More about Stanley Elkin...
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