David C. Dougherty, Ph.D., a professor of English at Loyola University Maryland until his retirement this spring, has published Shouting Down the Silence: A Biography of Stanley Elkin. The book is the first complete biography of Elkin, a novelist whose works received consistently high praise from critics but whose complex style likely prevented the popular acclaim he sought.
Dougherty’s book captures Elkin’s early life as the son of a charismatic, intimidating, and remarkably successful Jewish immigrant from Russia, as well as his later career at Washington University in St. Louis. A frequent participant at the annual Bread Loaf Writers’ conference, he was the friend—and sometime antagonist—of other important writers, including Saul Bellow, William Gass, Howard Nemerov, and Robert Coover.
Elkin’s works include 10 novels as well as many short stories, novellas, and essays. The winner of two National Book Critics Circle Awards (for George Mills in 1982 and Mrs. Ted Bliss, his last novel, in 1995), Elkin was a popular choice for college course reading lists, but was never able to achieve renown beyond the avant-garde. “Although materially and professionally successful by middle-class measures, even by standards for university faculty, Elkin felt that he never received the recognition and awards his art deserved,” writes Dougherty. “From the 1970s forward, he often expressed regret about, and occasionally even resentment of, his lack of popularity with general readers.”
Elkin died in 1995.
Dougherty, a member of the English faculty at Loyola from 1970 to 2010, is the author of the critical studies Stanley Elkin and James Wright, as well as the editor of two casebooks on Elkin’s novels. His essays on modern literature and baseball have appeared widely in books, scholarly journals, and reference works. A graduate of West Liberty State College in West Virginia, he holds a master’s degree from Xavier University and a Ph.D. from Miami University in Ohio. He remains a member of Loyola’s faculty in liberal studies, a program he directed for more than a decade.
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