Stanley Elkin, The MacGuffin: In Bellovian territory, moreso than Amis fils ever gets (though Bellow is more rollercoaster; Elkin's prose belies control, the ride still not without g force). Elkin gets a lot of mileage out of confusing MacGuffin (Elkin's rendering unaccountably absent) with The Figure in the Carpet. (He might even be said to anticipate Žižek.) Himself unaccountably absent from most considerations of strong late-20c American writers (thanks again Lannan!), Elkin is more straight than most about his intentionality [pdf]. I had the good fortune to stumble into a college course on contemporary American short stories in the late '70s (the other course that stayed with me was Hawthorne / Melville / Poe -- hey, not bad for a math major), where Elkin's Criers & Kibitzers joined Cynthia Ozick's The Pagan Rabbi and Peter Taylor's In the Miro District for consideration, and it's taken me this long to come back to him -- Ozick didn't take so long (she visited campus as part of the course, replacing stalwart Joyce Carol Oates that year -- I did say good fortune) -- and I was more into the Barth / Barthelme / Pynchon side of it back then, of whom the latter stayed with me, perennial, along with Nabokov and Borges. Even so, it took topical musings to drive me back. Elkin deserves a wider reading. At least by me.