Customer Reviews: George Mills
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on December 10, 1999
Elkin is about as good as it gets when it comes to fiction (modern, postmodern, classical or otherwise), and GM, while not his best (as he claimed) is awfully good. In reading his novels and stories, one needs to simply go with it: there's a kind of quote/unquote dao that's a prerequisite, and you'll need it with GM more than the others. But once you're in the groove of his prose and story you'll be ... well, enchanted is not quite the word for it. Enhanced is probably a better one. While I'd recommend this book highly, I'd also recommend picking up The Franchiser or The Magic Kingdom first. Elkin was one of our very, very best, so you can't really go wrong with any of his titles.
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on March 1, 2013
GEORGE MILLS is the story of the title character and of his ancestral line, all of whom are named George Mills, and whose destinies, because of fate or fortune or bad luck or genes or the weight of all those other George Millses before them or just from general inclination, has been consignment to the role of the nobody, the character actor, the serf, the hack driver. From a stable boy in the first crusade - whose horse leads the first George to servitude in a salt mine rather than the Holy Land - to a furniture repossessor in St. Louis, GEORGE MILLS is a chronicle of the masses with an individual face; of those at the mercy of circumstance or providence; of the countless backs that civilization breaks as it marches on.

That vague synopsis will in no way prepare the unfamiliar reader with GEORGE MILLS. It would be like saying that Gravity's Rainbow is an 'analysis of the impact of technology on society' (which is a direct quote from GR's product page on Amazon), and expecting that to impart any meaningful sense of the book. And though I never believe much in the efficacy of comparing one author to another, it is indeed the smattering I've read of GRAVITY'S RAINBOW that most reminds me of GEORGE MILLS. Stylistically difficult, syntactically challenging, crammed full of obscurities and inside jokes, often scathingly funny (sometimes scatologically so), witty in an ultra-refined slapstick sort of way, and (if anyone could ever reach an agreement on how to define it) probably a text-book example of post-modernist writing, GEORGE MILLS has the potential to be a lotta things to a lotta people.

I would want to recommend GEORGE MILLS to those readers who feel that most literature is not challenging enough for them - both from a thematic standpoint as well as a technical one. I don't know that I'm in that crowd; if the theme is tough, I need a break on the whiz-bang techniques, and if the prose is a challenge, I'd like a relatively accessible theme to hang my hat on. Stanley Elkin is in Gass/Gaddis/Pynchon/Barth territory - that's neither good nor bad, it just is. My own appreciation for GEORGE MILLS may have increased if I'd been prepped for it; that or maybe it'll take re-reading it someday when I've carved out a place to perch in my ever-expanding to-be-read pile. My assessment at this point is that there were periodic flashes of genuine delight as I was reading this first attempt at Stanley Elkins, but the mental gymnastics necessary for 500 pages of his prose hijinks left me too tired to appreciate all I was reading. I'm not that nimble. Toward the end, I could recognize what was charming but was too much in a hurry to be finished too stop and relish it.

This won't be my last Elkin foray - I've heard too many good things about Van Gogh's Room at Arles to stop now, and I've also got Searches and Seizures on my shelf as part of that TBR pile. But both of those are made up of novellas and shorter stories - which may be the perfect way for me to digest Elkin's writing. GEORGE MILLS, while I would say that I thought it was often excellent, it was also exhausting. It has, I believe, not just too many notes - it's crammed full of them.
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