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The Macguffin

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  80 ratings  ·  11 reviews
A seriocomic masterpiece from the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author of George Mills. Here Elkin is true to form, narrating with his accustomed panache the mysterious events that take place in a few short days in the life of a city commissioner of streets, and combining laugh-out-loud humor with plot twists that would make Hitchcock proud.
Published April 1st 1992 by Penguin Books (first published 1991)
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3.48  · 
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 ·  80 ratings  ·  11 reviews

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Aug 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jewish, american
Motivational People

What is the relationship between literature and life? Or for that matter between spirit and matter? Is the answer a critical philosophical one or a doctrinal religious one? And do these questions and answers intersect with what most of us would call reality? If you’re more or less permanently high on coca leaves like the protagonist of The MacGuffin, both the questions and the answers as well as reality get a bit fuzzy, producing a kind of anti-Freudian psychology which doesn’
May 07, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The MacGuffin started off strong, but somewhere along the way either he or I, or maybe both of us, got a little tired of the story and lost interest. I thought this might be a failing of the book, but I'm thinking now that it might have been an (un)intentional literary device. I won't explain this one, but read on and maybe you can forget I said it!

The MacGuffin is a book about a middle level government bureaucrat (the Commissioner of Roads to be exact), in a small city who begins to believe he
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We do not owe the genesis of the concept of the MacGuffin to Alfred Hitchcock, only its popularization. The MacGuffin is of course a fixture in storytelling (generally stories of suspense). It is essentially a quasi-absurd non-thing thing that is convenient to the establishment of parameters and the propulsion of narrative. Hitchcock at one point explained it as the thing the spies are after that the audience doesn't care about. In what may be the be-all-end-all novel of the freewheeling paranoi ...more
May 04, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like this guy's essays and that he was born in Brooklyn, but moved to St. Louis and died there. As for this book, it was okay. It's not something I would recommend to anyone not familiar with Stanley Elkin, as I think it's hard for most people to relate to the story: a city commissioner in his late 50s seemingly losing his sanity over the course of two days while trying to figure out exactly what happened to him (a scandal involving his son and his son's fiancee). It certainly had a strong voi ...more
Jan 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
What a ride. I'd call this a madcap comedy. Definitely impressive, and not, I'd say, for someone not interested in meandering language and anecdotes. Feels a bit old-school Philip Roth at times, but is mostly classic Stanley Elkin. Better than Dick Gibson, I'd say. I'll have to read this one again, as it's the sort of book that would benefit, I think, from knowing what's going to happen as you're reading. Plus I felt a little rushed. The way it all comes together at the end, too. Pretty incredib ...more
Erik Wyse
Jul 03, 2015 rated it liked it
The title serves as the main framing piece in this alltogether ambitious novel by Elkin. His trademark jazz-riff sentences are on full display here, with another protagonist caught swimming in a current. I greatly enjoyed sections of the book but felt, in large part because of it's macguffin-radical structure that it didn't succeed as well as a whole.
David Axelrod
Dec 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you have a spouse that talks in their sleep, this book has some extra meaning. One of Elkin's better works.
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyable romp through two days of an asshole's midlife crisis. Funny stream-of-consciousness.
Feb 01, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-literary
The MacGuffin is a motivating force, and in this darkly comic novel, it is like an external force opposed to the right order of things. The novel follows a commissioner of streets and events that surround him over the course of a few days as he tries to determine what has happened. Reality is more than he remembers, and he becomes paranoid of a conspiracy against him. Unfortunately, I just did not find the comedy to my taste, and without it, the novel dragged for me. Not my favorite, despite the ...more
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
nicely written, enjoyable narrator, but really dated and the core character is a lump.
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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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