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A Bad Man

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  144 ratings  ·  18 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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Average rating 3.83  · 
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 ·  144 ratings  ·  18 reviews

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Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american, jewish

In that mysterious place between the conscious and unconscious, that murky reality after sleep but before waking, that long lonely road... well, from the Lower East Side of Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge to Williamsburg, there writes Stanley Elkin. A Bad Man is Elkin at his most outrageous and surreal best. A comedy of crime and punishment in which the latter literally fits the former like a suit of ill-made clothes.

Elkin’s prison is a “guilt factory” in which those who are res
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
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
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. ...more
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. ...more
Cassandra Ridenhour
This is a very strange book! At first I thought I didn't like it, but the author had me laughing out loud more than once at this strange nonsensical story about a man who goes to prison and figures out just how bad he really is...sort of...I think...not sure, but it's definitely entertaining...sort of. ...more
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. ...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.
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." ...more
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
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.
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. ...more
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. ...more
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I have fallen head over heels for Stanley Elkin the past four years or so, and having now completed the man’s second novel, 1967’s A BAD MAN, I find myself with but one novel and a collection of novellas to go. I am so big an Elkin fan at this point that you had might as well go ahead and appoint me president of the Elks Club. (Rimshot.) We cherish Elkin for his rollicking tragicomic mien, this first and foremost a matter of his prodigious capacities as regards language, its manipulation, its in ...more
Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Stanley Elkin came recommended for in-depth character writing with an edge, and that was true. He’s a name I was unfamiliar with, he’s not a Bellow or Malamud his literary comparison, on ocassion he’s comparable to some Vonnegut dialogue. Stanley Elkin tried to go somewhere in the Nelson Algren human sociologist zone, but he is too much of a quirky detailed writer. I didn’t get that this was going to be a reflective and moody prison piece, you expect a successful merchant to hold his own in a lo ...more
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
Nigel Carroll
Nov 19, 2015 rated it did not like it
stopped at 20%. bored wasnt the word.
Miette Gillette
rated it it was amazing
Jan 20, 2008
rated it liked it
Feb 17, 2020
Dan Corbett
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Jan 03, 2015
rated it it was amazing
Jul 19, 2019
Robert Simmons
rated it it was amazing
Jul 09, 2011
rated it it was ok
Dec 26, 2007
rated it really liked it
Dec 06, 2010
Joe Milazzo
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Mar 02, 2015
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Mar 20, 2008
Meagan Talbot
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Sep 15, 2008
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Jun 20, 2011
Michael Magnes
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May 20, 2019
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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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