Books: Life After Afterlife

THE LIVING END by Stanley Elkin; Dutton; 148 pages; $7.95

In first-rate comic art, the funnier the surfaces the sadder the depths. Nowhere is that clearer than in the novels and short stories of Stanley Elkin, whose improvisations on the American way and the English language make him our foremost literary jazz band. His most exuberant characters—a department store owner, a bail bondsman, an itinerant radio announcer—combine the energy and appetites of the Middle West with the legendary qualities of Sholom Aleichem's villagers. Elkin makes much joyful noise unto the Lord, but there is...

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