Sunday, August 17, 2008


The Elkin Scale

The Stranger continues to have some of the most inventive book coverage in the country, and actually appears to be growing, even as book sections get cut back at other newspapers. (The LA Times is the latest casualty.)

Here's a great bit by Paul Constant in this week's Stranger:
Here's the supersecret method I use to determine if a bookstore is any good: Find the fiction section, locate the Es, and look for Stanley Elkin. If a bookstore carries Elkin's novels, it's a sign of all-around quality. Elkin, who died in 1995, was a masterful writer with a playful love of language that few authors this side of Nabokov could match—it's a good bet that almost every literary author you admire has read and loved Stanley Elkin's fiction.

But many bookstores don't carry Elkin's novels because they're obscure and they don't sell—you'd be lucky to have one stolen every other year, compared to perennial sellers like Kerouac. Granted, any bookstore can order Elkin's books—the nonprofit Dalkey Archive Press keeps them all in print, supposedly forever—but so can I, from my laptop, on my couch. A bookstore that carries Stanley Elkin has more than good taste; it has a commitment to its stock and a willingness to shelve excellent books that don't pay for their own real estate.

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