THE MACGUFFIN by Stanley Elkin


Email this review


When the man in charge begins to feel out of control, Elkin (The Rabbi of Lud, 1987) has a situation tailormade for displaying his virtuosity--but this time around the humor, plot, and theme seem as tired and over the hill as the hero. Recently, 58-year-old Bobbo Druff, the city's appointed Commissioner of Streets, has been feeling as if he's "somehow mysteriously lost, well, force." As he rides round the city inspecting streets and traffic in his chauffeur-driven limousine, he senses that he's no longer quite in control, and events begin to take a strange and inexplicable turn. He attributes these changes to his acquiring a MacGuffin--an alter ego that seems to be controlling him. As the roads he maintains are to him, so is he to MacGuffin--"Raw material. Like pitch, like tar, like clay or sand or silica" to work with. After years of marital fidelity, Druff has an affair with s sales representative; finds himself unexpectedly in a meeting of bankers in a rabbi's office; attends the wake of someone he can't recall; and increasingly suspects links between the recent death of his son's Shiite girlfriend at a traffic-crossing and these seemingly random and often sinister occurrences. All is made more or less clear, but the denouement of the twisting plot is not all that important. What counts more is poor old Druff's exhausting experience of feeling no longer in control of anything not even the streets, his limo, his son Mikey, or the allocation of stop signs. The mordant humor and vision of human frailty are vintage Elkin, but the punch is lost in overworked jokes, repetitive monologues, and a story that doesn't quite do justice to the theme. Teeming with ideas and allusions, but cumulatively lifeless.
Pub Date: March 1st, 1991
ISBN: 1564782239
Page count: 292pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1991


FictionTHE MAGIC KINGDOM by Stanley Elkin
by Stanley Elkin
FictionMRS. TED BLISS by Stanley Elkin
by Stanley Elkin
FictionVAN GOGH'S ROOM AT ARLES by Stanley Elkin
by Stanley Elkin