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A Bad Man

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  127 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
Breaking the law in a foolhardy attempt to accommodate his customers, unscrupulous department store owner Leo Feldman finds himself in jail and at the mercy of the warden, who tries to break Leo of his determination to stay bad.
Paperback, 336 pages
Published September 1st 2003 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published January 1st 1968)
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MJ Nicholls
Aug 31, 2014 rated it liked it
Last 45pp unread. No more please. Another virtuoso performance, with Elkin’s logorrhoeic shtick restrained for the first one hundred until his momentum builds and we have the unstoppable torrent of another fast-talking moral vacuum protagonist, and that maxi-prose with its descriptive prattle pumped to eleven until the skimming and eye-rolling begins. This novel is (for the first 200pp), a captivating and blackly comic romp inside a surreal prison, less interesting when depicting the protagonist ...more
Nov 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An intimate epic of tragic hilarity. Elkin knows that the worst parts of us are hopelessly fused to our vigor and essence, and he writes about this sad, ridiculous truth with such understanding, empathy, pleasure, and dark humor. His exaggerated, impulsive characters and settings somehow avoid caricature and come much closer to our actual emotional lives than a lot of realist fiction. If my blather is not specific or concrete enough, I'll make a limited comparison. This book, in tone and style, ...more
Apr 13, 2017 rated it liked it
little too K A F K A E S Q U E for me, elkin shows clear technical prowess but i didn't feel like he explored the various themes he introduces very well.
Oct 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
A BAD MAN. (1967). Stanley Elkin. ***1/2.
This is the first book by Mr. Elkin that I have read. He had quite a list of books under his belt. It seems as if his books were successful among the critics, but less so among the general reading public. Note that two of his books were winners of the National Book Critics Circle Award. This book was a bit strange. There is no doubt that Elkin was influenced by the works of Kafka. The setting of this novel reminds you strongly of “The Castle.” The publish
Sep 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, novel, jewish-lit
This is a really ambitious novel. That can mean a slog but in this case, minor slogging but primarily unexpected detours into in the sure hands of a good writer. As he talks about growing up in the midwest on the edge of the diaspora, his father selling reclaimed items from a pushcart, attempting to sell the "unsalable" item", he is able to express a moment that textbooks would fail to. The book is often funny and extremely odd as he uses the main character's year in prison to bring out what it ...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Must be a classic of what was then known as black humor. I do wish I had run across Elkin already back in the day when Vonnegut und Heller were staples of my diet.
Jun 11, 2014 rated it really liked it

A fable, an allegory plumbing guilt, punishment, Judaism, and human wants. Set in a fantastic prison setting with a wayward warden who makes up the rules as he goes along, the protagonist stumbles through punishment that he doesn't understand, and that seems arbitrary. The setting, though not meant to be realistic, is dark and anxious, even paranoid. But the plot is so deliberately ridiculous and over-the-top that it isn't depressing.

Elkins is a tremendous writer with a striking talent for obse
Alan Newman
Aug 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Part of the Jewish Renaissance in literature in the 60's , Elkin is rarely talked about today--which is unfortunate. He is a great comic writer, a moralist, and most definitely worth reading. Here his protagonist is a true antihero, a man imbued with the vitality of the second generation Jewish Americans, but who is unabashedly perverse and self interested, his life an act of anger at society. He is the anti-Augie March-- and Elkin more a precursor to Roth than a successor to Bellow. Not my favo ...more
Feb 25, 2014 rated it liked it
strange - exuberant language wedded to what is ostensibly a prison and punishment story, but in which the prison exists in no real space or time, and which appears to be really a story of guilt and retribution related to the satisfaction of needs and desires. Almost a cross between Flann O'Brien and Philip Roth.
Nigel Carroll
Nov 19, 2015 rated it did not like it
stopped at 20%. bored wasnt the word.
Mark Holtzen
Aug 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Amazing writer. Another master of setting and plotline - I hadn't read any of his stuff before. Saw it on Writer's Almanac e-mail.
Dec 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
I read most of this but put it down and forgot about it. It was a good read for the most part. I will update the review if I ever finish it.
Sep 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: modern-lit
I loved this when I read it, but I can't remember why. It's still on my shelves because I thought I'd read it again, but I'm a bit scared I'll change my mind about it. So it waits.
Oct 14, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"i've been moved, roused. lumps in the throat and the heart's hard-on. i'm telling you something."
Leonard Pierce
May 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I'd never heard of Elkin when I first read this book. He's now one of my favorites, and this book is hilarious and well-written.
Miette Reader
rated it it was amazing
Jan 20, 2008
Dan Corbett
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Jan 03, 2015
Robert Simmons
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Jul 09, 2011
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Dec 26, 2007
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Dec 06, 2010
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Hunter Davenport
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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
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