At one point in the Franchiser, the book's central character, Ben Flesh, says with a whimpering exhale: I want my remission back. Ben's flesh, literally, and Ben's small empire of franchises face imminent death in a 1970s America of rolling blackouts and gas shortages. Ben has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis; his franchising fund, controlled by his godcousins, has been diagnosed sub-performing and unfit.
The back-story of Ben's franchise building ability is laid out in a wonderful early chapter, but what draws us to Elkin, and why we'll read anything he wrote is the language-writing that is grabbed by the jugular and dragged like prey across the page. Like all his characters, those in The Franchiser speak in a colorful and idiosyncratic vernacular, and in Ben's case the dogmatisms of business school and manias of endless entrepreneurship. If you are a Midwesterner, especially one from Kansas City, you will smile at Flesh's analysis á la Roland Barthes of the Crown Center Mall. Read Elkin's Franchiser: laugh, cry, and marvel at it all.