Dallas, Texas: Dalkey Archive Press, 2001. First Dalkey Archive Edition, Presumed first printing thus. Trade paperback. Pencil erasure residue at top of first page. Originally published by Scribner's in 1987. Surrounded by cemeteries in the flatlands of New Jersey, the small town of Lud is sustained by the business of death. In fact, with no synagogue and no congregation, Rabbi Jerry Goldkorm has only one true responsibility: to preside over burial services for Jews who pass away in the surrounding cities. But after the Arctic misadventures that led him to Lud, he wouldn't want to live (or die) anywhere else. As the only living child in Lud, his daughter Connie has a different opinion of this grisly city, and she will do anything to get away from it--or at least liven it up a little. Things get lively indeed when Connie testifies to meeting the Virgin Mary for a late-night romp through the local graveyards. There is always in Elkin's work the understanding that however recklessly we behave, life is to be cherished. Stanley Lawrence Elkin (May 11, 1930 – May 31, 1995) was an American novelist, short story writer, and essayist. His extravagant, satirical fiction revolves around American consumerism, popular culture, and male–female relationships. During his career, Elkin published ten novels, two volumes of novellas, two books of short stories, a collection of essays, and one (unproduced) screenplay. Elkin's work revolves about American pop culture, which it portrays in innumerable darkly comic variations. Elkin won the National Book Critics Circle Award on two occasions: for George Mills in 1982 and for Mrs. Ted Bliss, his last novel, in 1995. Derived from a Kirkus review: Though all of Elkin's work is saturated with Jewish-American, Yiddish-tinged rhythms, few of his novels are explicitly, centrally Jewish in character and theme. This book is extravagantly ethnic and blissfully sectarian, as Elkin drapes grotesque tall tales, baroque spiels, and irreverent parodies around a jaunty narrator: Jerry Goldkorm, a "pickup rabbi, God's little Hebrew stringer in New Jersey." Jerry, you see, is Rabbi of Lud, a tiny north N.J. town that exists only to service nearby Jewish cemeteries; congregationless, Jerry is employed by the local funeral home. In the novel's first section, delivered in a monologue that mixes the profane, the preachy, and the grimly hilarious, Jerry reveals his weak academic past, his iffy command of Hebrew, and shares arcane, super-orthodox strictures. He testily addresses God by funny names—tit for tat; details his ever-blazing lust for wife Shelley, who gets turned on by phylacteries and talks in babyish pidgin Yiddish; and frets about daughter Constance, 14, who's fed up with the morbidity and isolation of Lud. Then Jerry recalls his year ('74-75) as Chief Rabbi of the Alaska Pipeline. There's a wayward plane trip, a wilderness-survival ordeal, and a surreal encounter with "an old Jew with a beard made out of flowers." More amusingly, there are tales of Jerry's weird success as Chief Rabbi, using reverse-psychology to draw crowds to Shavuoth services. The novel's final section returns to Lud—where Constance claims to have had a cemetery visit from none other than the Holy Mother, come "to rescue the poor lost souls of righteous Jews." Constance's vision becomes an embarrassment, of course—to the funeral home and to the Rabbi, who's dabbling in adultery and real-estate salesmanship. Like most of Elkin's novels, this is episodic. Rabbi Jerry's narration—loose, angry, half-hip, half. cloddish—gives the book a center. The combination of favorite Elkin themes—mortality, theology-ad-absurdum, hucksterism—generates memorable vignettes. This is bouncy and zestily outrageous. Condition: Good.
Keywords: Rabbis, Lud, cemeteries, Hebrew, Alaska Pipeline, Wilderness Survival, Shavuoth, Holy Mother, Vision, Funeral Home, Jerry Goldkorm, Narrator, Shelley Goldkorm, Constance Goldkorm