Books: A Poet of Profit and Loss

THE FRANCHISER

by STANLEY ELKIN

342 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $8.95.

Stanley Elkin is one of the perennial bridesmaids of American fiction. Part of the problem is that the styles Elkin employs are beginning to show their age. His prose is creased by the crow's-feet of '50s black humor, it shows the slight stoop of Jewish realism and the weird droop of the surreal as well. There is no denying, though, that when Elkin puts them together—as he did in Boswell, A Bad Man, The Dick Gibson Show and now The Franchiser—the results are...

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