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James Purdy
Birthplace: Ohio
Typewriter: Olivetti Lettera 32*

From the very beginning of his career in the mid-1950s, James Purdy has remained one of the most enigmatic figures of post-World War II American literature. Over the last 45 years he has regularly produced work across a variety of genres: over twenty novels, nine collections of short fiction (including, in several instances, works in other genres), nine collections of poetry, five published plays and six others that have been produced. His work has garnered him several literary prizes, including the Morton Dauwen Zabel Fiction Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters for On Glory's Course (1984). Writers as diverse as Dame Edith Sitwell, John Cowper Powys, Dorothy Parker, Marianne Moore, Gore Vidal, and Jerome Charyn have sung his praises. Three book-length critical studies of his work have been published and his work has been discussed at length in more than a dozen well-known critical surveys of contemporary American fiction and drama. Yet, as a recent, brief profile in Vanity Fair has emphasized, Purdy's work continues to be much more highly regarded in European countries such as the United Kingdom, France and Italy, than in the United States. Among American critics, none of his subsequent works has struck a deeper chord than his first two full-length novels, Malcolm (1959) and The Nephew (1961). Although Purdy has had much too extended and substantive a career to be dismissed out of hand, he has not attracted enough sustained or pointed notice to escape being labeled “obscure”, and he has also not produced a singularly controversial novel or play that might have made him a cult figure.




The Literary Encyclopedia: James Purdy

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