“Lost Books” is a weekly series highlighting forgotten books through the prism of Tablet Magazine’s and Nextbook.org’s archives. So blow the dust off the cover, and begin!
Of the late Stanley Elkin’s nine novels, six novellas, and two collections of short stories, perhaps the least remembered is his 1967 novel, A Bad Man. In the first few pages, department store owner Leo Feldman is arrested, wrongly charged with bribery, and incarcerated. But unlike in Kafka, where Joseph K. is arrested “without having done anything wrong,” Elkin’s novel functions as a manifestation of his own pessimism: Leo Feldman is revealed to be far from a model citizen, and, crushingly, redemption is nowhere to be found within the labyrinthine, constantly-changing prison system.
Sarah Almond wrote in 2008:
Like his contemporaries, Elkin was concerned with identity in an increasingly irrational and haphazard world. What sets him apart in A Bad Man, however, is his insistence on a character as inconstant as his surroundings. Identity becomes artifice, a costume donned as easily as the mockery of a suit the prison’s “bad men” are forced to wear.
Read The Good of A Bad Man, by Sarah Almond
Plus Adelson denies making a (poor) investment, and more in the news
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.