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Hardcover Van Gogh's Room at Arles Book

ISBN: 1562829378

ISBN13: 9781562829377

Van Gogh's Room at Arles

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Format: Hardcover

Condition: Very Good

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Book Overview

In a trio of novellas, a wheelchair-bound professor presides over an out-of-control student party, the spurned fiance+a7e of the Prince of England pens her expose+a7 memoirs, and the winner of a foundation grant searches for his scholarly identity among his academic peers.

Customer Reviews

2 ratings

Extremely clever.

This book of three novellas, my first contact with the works of Stanley Elkin, leaves me with the impression that Elkin deserves to be more widely read and appreciated. It seems that he has been given more recognition by his fellow writers than by the reading public. According to the liner notes, authors such as Robert Coover, John Gardner and Richard Ford "have rhapsodized...over Elkin's dazzling originality of theme and spellbinding, playful command of language." I am not yet familiar with the works of authors Ford and Coover, but words of approval from John Gardner carry a great deal of authority for me, as he is a writer I much admire. It is interesting that Gardner would have had such high esteem for Elkin, because, based on the reading I have done in each writer's output, they differ greatly in technique and emphasis. I find it useful to compare the two; this gives me a clearer idea of the salient traits of each. Gardner's work suggests a semi-mythic approach in his rendition of life, with characters having qualities of both real human beings as well as those of archetypes or symbols. By contrast, Elkin's characters(at least in the book being reviewed)seem entirely human. It's true that Elkin's characters are confronted with the same sort of unfathomable conditions of life as Gardner's, such as alienation, luck of the draw, and the inability to control one's environment or fate. But whereas Gardner's stories have that overlay of symbolism, which gives to them touches of the heroic, and of tragic irony, we are described the world of Elkin's characters through internal monologues of unceasing chatter which reveal the truth of the inner person, warts and all. Frankly, I found this style of Elkin's to be a turn-off when I first started reading the book. Why, I thought, should I spend my time reading about a character whose inner musings seem to be composed of a continual sing-song of the mundane, the ignoble, the self-serving and seamy reflections with which he defines his existence? The first novella of the book, 'Her Sense of Timing', I saw, would likely determine whether my association with Elkin's work would be long or abbreviated. It deals with a wheelchair-bound university Professor of Political Geography, whose debilitating illness has left him almost wholly dependent on the aid and goodwill of others. A curmudgeon by nature, his needy condition has left him even more unattractive to others. Being a curmudgeon when you have full use of your faculties is vastly easier than when you become dependent on others for your every need, he finds. When his wife of thirty-seven years, who has evidently had enough of him, abruptly leaves him to his own devices, he finds his vulnerability exacerbated to another level of magnitude, for now he must depend on the kindness of complete strangers. Professor Jack Schiff, in trying to hang on to a semblance of personal dignity, craftily resorts to attempted manipulation of people who basically have no i

Three involving, surprise-filled tales

Van Gogh's Room At Arles is a collection of three original novellas by Stanley Elkin. A wheelchair-bound professor is overwhelmed by a student party that catapults to extravagant heights; a commoner suddenly becomes enmeshed in the world of royalty when Prince Larry of Wales falls for her; and a community college professor overshadowed by Van Gogh embarks on a quest for his own identity. The three involving, surprise-filled tales comprising Van Gogh's Room At Arles admirably showcases the work of a true literary master of tragedy and comedy.
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