Boswell: A Modern Comedy

Boswell: A Modern Comedy

by Stanley Elkin

He is also the hero of one of the most original novel in years ( Oakland Tribune)--a man on the make for all the great men of his time--his logic being that if you can't be a lion, know a pride of them.

Can he cheat his way out of mortality?

  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 3.95
  • Pages: 387
  • Publish Date: April 1st 1999 by Dalkey Archive Press
  • Isbn10: 1564781747
  • Isbn13: 9781564781741

What People Think about "Boswell: A Modern Comedy"

If James Boswell could not achieve the glow of their degree of celebrity, he could at least warm his feet in its heat. Self-promotion is the source of reputation and therefore civilisations most valuable skill. And Boswell certainly has achieved a reputation - a celebrity for chasing celebrity. The fact that what he really craves is his lost family and familial love makes his life a tragedy. I am no respector of persons save my own, he says with a self-aware honesty. This Roy Cohn figure knows exactly what to make of Boswell, the teenager and sets him on his lifes course: All right, why not? Strangely it is Boswells awareness of his finite humanity that saves him from being merely a tragic buffoon. Paradoxically, this acceptance of death is the result of a great virtue which is the source, one realises eventually, of Boswells charm - the virtue of hope. Elkins Boswell gives me a new perspective on Trump. And his comedic traits could just possibly be generated by the same awareness of death which motivates Boswell. But he does hope; he hopes desperately that the tragedy of his life will be redeemed by the promise made by the real Roy Cohn, namely that he can be the greatest bum of all time.

Stanley Elkins BOSWELL: A MODERN COMEDY is hilarious. But now, I have to wonder if BOSWELL does not surpass Allen. I wonder too, if BOSWELL did not inspire some of Allens material. James Boswell, Elkins protagonist, is unique in my reading. The book, which lacks a central plot, takes shape when young Boswell meets a character, of some fame himself, who takes credit for directing the careers of others toward fame and celebrity. Boswell seeks out a retired, but once famous strong man of that sort. (Much of the book is about Boswells ability to attach himself to celebrities and this is a good early example of that talent.) But the business of being a strongman has changed. Then he is scheduled for a match against the Grim Reaper, who Elkin implies may be an agent for the Angel of Death. Boswells career as a professional wrestler ends abruptly when the Grim Reaper beats him badly, sending Boswell to the hospital for a long convalescence. Thereafter, Boswell embarks upon a rather successful career pursuing and befriending celebrities. The dust cover of the book frames Boswells very odd career as a response to a fear of death. But Boswell is not a neurotic and fear is not a big part of his psyche, except for the match with the Grim Reaper, which scares the wits out of him. I did not know that, of course, until I read the book just recently.

Its a life principle. James Boswell is a healthy strong man but he is obsessed with thanatophobia. James Boswell is a penniless man but he is a collector he collects celebrities and he worships the famous.

The sadness of the book and its main' character is encapsulated by "I realized that I knew no number, that although I could give her the unlisted phone number of half the celebrities in New York, I didn't even know the number of a good doctor." Boswell spends his life collecting celebrities and "great" people, but ultimately ends up alone.

What is our relationship with celebrity, with life, with death?

Stanley Lawrence Elkin was a Jewish American novelist, short story writer, and essayist. Sipper wrote, "Elkin's trademark is to tightrope his way from comedy to tragedy with hardly a slip." About the influence of ethnicity on his work Elkin said he admired most "the writers who are stylists, Jewish or not.