Style and Technique
Unlike his novels, which are generally categorized with those by such linguistically venturesome, self-referential writers as Robert Coover, William Gass, and John Hawkes, Elkin’s short stories resemble the more conventionally realistic style of so-called Jewish Renaissance fiction of the 1950’s and 1960’s—the literary territory carved out by Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, and Bernard Malamud. Nevertheless, what has become the Elkin trademark does occasionally appear in “I Look Out for Ed Wolfe”: the establishment of outrageously comic circumstances that spur what might best be called lyrical exhibitionism. Elkin is responsible for some of the most richly imaged verbal flourishes in American fiction.
Ed Wolfe is a vocation vocalized, for Elkin has mastered the jargon, pace, and patter of the salesperson and granted it poetic status. Verbal rhythm and drive: They lend even Ed Wolfe’s willful deterioration an optimistic charge—and a plenitude. Rejoicing in voice, the beleaguered ego perseveres.