Purdy, James Otis

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James Otis Purdy, 1914–2009, American writer, b. near Hicksville, Ohio; studied Bowling Green State College (B.A., 1935), Univ. of Chicago (M.A., 1937), Univ. of Pueblo, Mexico. Idiosyncratic and always something of a literary outsider (though he has had many admirers among both writers and readers), Purdy wrote almost 20 novels, the best known of which are probably his first two, Malcolm (1959), a picaresque tale of the struggles of an innocent teenager (adapted as a play by Edward Albee), and The Nephew (1961). A four-part series of linked novels including Jeremy's Version (1970) and The House of the Solitary Maggot (1974) explore bleak small-town family lives, and Garments the Living Wear (1989), Out With the Stars (1992), and others examine aspects of gay life. His works create a psychological portrait of a dark and often cruel America. Frequently touched with coruscating comedy, his themes typically include alienation and loss, fear and violence. Purdy also published several volumes of poetry and plays, and wrote numerous short stories that echo the themes of his novels.

See his complete stories (2013); study by S. D. Adams (1976).

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