Born in New York City on May 11, 1930, Stanley Elkin was raised in Chicago. His father, Philip, a highly successful traveling salesman for a costume-jewelry concern and an equally accomplished raconteur, had a pronounced influence on Elkin’s writing, in terms of both style and subject. Just as important were the elder Elkin’s fear of being thought less than he was and the four heart attacks that would cut short his career and then his life.
For all the rhetorical as well as geographical expansiveness of his fiction, Elkin stayed close to home, first by choice, later by medical necessity. He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana, where he earned a B.A. in 1952, an M.A. in 1953, and, following a stint in the Army, a Ph.D. in 1961. It was during his military service that Elkin became interested in radio broadcasting, which figures so prominently in his third novel, The Dick Gibson Show (1971). In 1960, he joined the English faculty at Washington University in St. Louis, where he taught creative writing. Elkin began writing fiction while still a graduate student. His first published story, “A Sound of Distant Thunder,” appeared in Epoch in 1957, and his first mass-market publication, “I Look Out for Ed Wolfe,” appeared in Esquire five years later.
Also in 1962, Elkin, with financial assistance from his mother, went to Europe to write his first novel, Boswell: A Modern Comedy (1964)....
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