A Bad Man

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E.P. Dutton, 1984 - 368 pages
1 Review
"Sentenced to a year in jail for providing his customers with everything they needed - drugs for the nervous, abortions for the unintending, guns for the crazed - department store owner Leo Feldman finds himself in a Kafkaesque prison. Labeled a "bad man," Feldman is treated as a fool, made to wear a clownish version of his business suit with oversized button holes too big for the buttons and miscut legs and pockets. While incarcerated, he's forced to come to terms with his criminal self - a man always on the make, one who can't avoid overselling to the poor and lying to the trusting - in this grey-stone purgatory run by a sadistic prison warden who enforces a set of elaborate, ever-shifting rules."--BOOK JACKET.

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User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

Elkin, whose Boswell (1964) heralded a major talent, continues to dazzle; he's got the wit, he's got the words, but he still lacks a story capable of attracting and holding a large audience. Boswell ... Read full review

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User Review  - Leonard - Goodreads

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. Read full review


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About the author (1984)

Stanley Elkin was an American Jewish novelist, short story writer, and essayist. He was born on May 11, 1930. Elkin steadily and quietly worked his way into the higher ranks of contemporary American novelists. He was born in Brooklyn, New York, but grew up in Chicago and has spent most of his life since in the Midwest, receiving his Ph.D. in English from the University of Illinois with a dissertation on William Faulkner. He was a member of the English faculty at Washington University in St. Louis from 1960 until his death, and battled multiple sclerosis for most of his adult life. Reviewers found Elkin's first novel, Boswell: A Modern Comedy (1964), the story of an uninhibited modern-day counterpart of the eighteenth-century biographer, hilarious and promising, while the stories in Criers and Kibitzers, Kibitzers and Criers (1966) established Elkin as a writer capable of writing short stories of textbook-anthology quality. The ironically entitled A Bad Man (1967) is about a Jewish department store magnate who deliberately arranges to have himself convicted of several misdeeds so that he can experience the real world of a prison and carry on his own war with the warden in what takes on the dimensions of a burlesque existential allegory. The Dick Gibson Show (1971) uses the host of a radio talk show as a way of showing fancifully what it means to live "at sound barrier," and both Searchers and Seizures (1973) and The Living End (1979) are triptychs of related stories verging on surrealism. The Franchiser (1976), generally considered Elkin's best novel before George Mills, uses the story of a traveling salesman of franchises to show the flattening homogenization of American life. But as usual, what happens in this Elkin novel is less important than the way in which the story is told. Elkin won the National Book Critics Circle Award on two occasions: for George Mills in 1982 and for Mrs. Ted Bliss, his last novel, in 1995. The MacGuffin was a finalist for the 1991 National Book Award for Fiction. Although he enjoyed high critical praise, his books never enjoyed popular success. Elkin died May 31, 1995 of a heart attack. His manuscripts and correspondence are archived in Olin Library at Washington University in St. Louis.

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