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James Purdy, 1914-2009--and His One New Yorker Story

Filed under: In Memoriam   Tagged: , , , ,

Jonathan Taylor writes:

James Purdy died today, the Times's ArtsBeat reports, saying that he "labored at the margins of the literary mainstream, inspiring veneration or disdain."

I was a little surprised to find a Purdy story published in The New Yorker, but not that surprised that it was a very early one: "About Jessie Mae" in the May 25, 1957, issue—just after the 1956 publication of Purdy's novella 63: Dream Palace. It's a grotesquely decorous little dialogue between two nieghbors in St. Augustine, Fla., seething in harmony. Myrtle and Mrs. Hemlock are bursting simultaneously with the uncontrollable urge to gossip about the breathaking "untidiness" of their rich frenemy Jessie Mae—and with Mrs. Hemlock's icebox full of homemade fudge bars. "About Jessie Mae" was included in Purdy's 1962 story collection Children Is All.

Here's a 2005 appreciation by Purdy champion Gore Vidal.

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