Thursday, March 31, 2016

Guttersnipe Bookshelf: Stanley Elkin

Stanley Elkin, 
Van Gogh’s Room at Arles
Dalkey Archive Press, 2002

Contains 3 novellas:
Her Sense of Timing
Town Crier Exclusive, “Confessions of a Princess Manque: How Royals Found Me ‘Unsuitable’ to Marry Their Larry”
Van Gogh’s Room at Arles

First things first: regardless of how this book is listed on Amazon, it is neither out of print nor unavailable.  Contact Dalkey Archive -- they’d be delighted to sell you a copy.

To me, a novella is the perfect length for the jazzy dense madcap diatribes of Stanley Elkin.  Not for nothing does Francine Prose rate this Elkin’s best book.  If a prince ever falls in love with you and you’re struggling about how to behave among royals and paparazzi -- you’ll find the second novella indispensable.  Community college lecturers and any of us prone to feeling catastrophically lackluster in company will want to seek out the third.

But for me, the first novella, “Her Sense of Timing”, is the one that’s essential.  This is one of the most acute (and hilarious) accounts of disability and humiliation I’ve ever come across.  As a person with a disability, I cheered this edgy and all-out account of what it really feels like to live in a messy human body.  Hooray for Stanley Elkin, who isn’t shy to tell the truth about the human condition and who can make literature out of ongoing struggles with an overfull pee bottle.    

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