Van Gogh's Room at Arles

Overview

The three novellas collected in Van Gogh's Room at Arles demonstrate once again Stanley Elkin's mastery of the English language, with exuberant rants on almost every page, unexpected plot twists, and jokes that leave readers torn between laughter and tears. "Her Sense of Timing" relates a destructive day in the life of a wheelchair-bound professor who is abandoned by his wife at the worst possible time, leaving him to preside -- helplessly -- over a party for his students that careens out of control. The second ...

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Overview

The three novellas collected in Van Gogh's Room at Arles demonstrate once again Stanley Elkin's mastery of the English language, with exuberant rants on almost every page, unexpected plot twists, and jokes that leave readers torn between laughter and tears. "Her Sense of Timing" relates a destructive day in the life of a wheelchair-bound professor who is abandoned by his wife at the worst possible time, leaving him to preside -- helplessly -- over a party for his students that careens out of control. The second story in this collection tells of an unsuspecting commoner catapulted into royalty when she catches the wandering eye of Prince Larry of Wales. And in the title story, a community college professor searches for his scholarly identity in a land of academic giants while staying in Van Gogh's famous room at Arles and avoiding run-ins with the Club of the Portraits of the Descendants of the People Painted by Vincent Van Gogh.

Dalkey Archive Press

A wheelchair-bound professor abandoned by his wife must preside over a wild student party. The spurned fiancee of the Prince of England pens her memoirs as a series of tabloid exposes. A man awarded a foundation grant searches for his scholarly identity. Van Gogh's Room at Arles finds the prodigiously creative Elkin at the peak of his powers with three astonishing novellas.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"All three novellas in Elkin's latest collection are occasionally funny, often painful and always beautifully written." -- PW

Dalkey Archive Press

"This well-balanced collection stands as a worthy companion to Elkin's first three-novella set, Search es and Seizures." -- Library Journal

Dalkey Archive Press

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
All three novellas in Elkin's ( The MacGuffin ) latest collection are occasionally funny, often painful and always beautifully written. As usual with this author's work, the plot is not really the point; his main concern is his protagonists' inner landscapes, conveyed in rich and convoluted monologues. The tales themselves are simple: a wheelchair-bound political geographer, deserted by his wife on the eve of his annual class party, tries to cope in ``Her Sense of Timing''; a commoner formerly engaged to the Crown Prince of England explains the circumstances of her morganatic relationship in `` Town Crier Exclusive, Confessions of a Manque: `How Royals Found me ``Unsuitable'' to Marry Their Larry,' ''; and in the title story, a teacher from Booth Tarkington Community College (BTCC), surrounded by the stars of academe at a foundation in Arles, searches for his intellectual bearings. The characters' musings are peppered with comic asides ranging from the political geographer's attempts to formulate an answering-machine message that will deter burglars to the BTCC professor's bungled French translations (``because Madame Celli had become invisible in the laundry two horses must begin to be''). In Elkin's hands, this trio's probings into (respectively) their physical, social and intellectual constraints are very human inquiries into the ever crotchety workings of fate. (Mar.)
Library Journal
In ``Her Sense of Timing,'' a professor of political geography paralyzed by a ``degenerative neurological disease'' (obviously the multiple sclerosis that also affects Elkin) tries to host a party without the assistance of his wife, who has just left him. In the book's title story, an inept associate professor from an obscure community college finds himself at a scholarly retreat in Arles with some of the biggest names in academe (including a crippled geographer). Inexplicably, he has been assigned the most desirable accommodations: Van Gogh's old room. Sandwiched between these two classic Elkin works is a British tabloid parody, ``Town Crier Exclusive, Confessions of a Princess Manque,'' clearly something of a technical exercise for an author who has built his reputation on his mastery of American idioms. This well-balanced collection stands as a worthy companion to Elkin's first three-novella set, Search es and Seizures .-- Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781564782809
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2002
  • Series: American Literature Series
  • Edition description: 1ST DALKEY
  • Pages: 1
  • Sales rank: 1,231,681
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Stanley Elkin (1930-1995) was an award-winning author of novels, short stories, and essays. Born in the Bronx, Elkin received his BA and PhD from the University of Illinois and in 1960 became a professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis where he taught until his death. His critically acclaimed works include the National Book Critics Circle Award-winners George Mills (1982) and Mrs. Ted Bliss (1995), as well as the National Book Award finalists The Dick Gibson Show (1972), Searches & Seizures (1974), and The MacGuffin (1991). His book of novellas, Van Gogh's Room at Arles, was a finalist for the PEN Faulkner Award.

Dalkey Archive Press

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Table of Contents

Her Sense of Timing 1
Town Crier Exclusive Confessions of a Princess Manque: "How Royals Found Me 'Unsuitable' to Marry Their Larry" 111
Van Gogh's Room at Arles 219
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