James Purdy, Heights Resident and Prolific Writer, Dies at 94

According to William Grimes in today’s New York Times:

James Purdy, whose dark, often savagely comic fiction evoked an American psychic landscape of deluded innocence, sexual obsession, violence and isolation, died on Friday in Englewood, N.J. He was 94 and lived in Brooklyn Heights.

Purdy was the author of numerous novels, the best known of which are Malcolm and The Nephew, as well as short stories and plays. His work was praised by such prominent literary figures as Dorothy Parker, Edith Sitwell, Gore Vidal, and Tennessee Williams. Nevertheless, he never enjoyed commercial success. For his part, Purdy disdained the literary establishment, opining that being well known was inversely related to a writer’s merit.

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  • AEB

    To be launched by Edith Sitwell, which Purdy was, is extraordinary enough….

    Does anyone know where he lived?

  • cv

    He was a great writer — he was original, innovative, and bold. He lived on Henry St.

  • bornhere

    He lived in the “gaslight” house on the corner of Henry and Joralemon.

  • http://selfabsorbedboomer.blogspot.com Claude Scales

    bornhere: My wife has long called that “Admiral Boom’s house” because of the naval-style mast and yardarm on the roof, just like on Admiral Boom’s roof in “Mary Poppins”.

  • bornhere

    Claude- Love it! That’s way more colorful then “Pepe’s house” :)

  • Roger

    Sadly, those gaslights don’t ever seem to be on anymore. The only ones that seem to be functioning these days are the ones on Poplar.

  • bornhere

    Someone left a small bouquet of roses at the top of the steps today. There was something sad/lovely about it.
    Roger – I don’t know if you remember the original gaslights, but they were smaller and more “original” looking than the ones (that aren’t on anymore) now. There are gaslights on Joralemon (between Henry and Clinton) at the “new” brick house; if you like the house, you’ll like the lights. And Claude, it seems the mast is gone, too.

  • cv

    I’m sure some of his books are at the Bklyn Heights library. Many are on Amazon. If anyone wants to read his words, it’s easy to do so. He had a voice like no one else — never mainstream, always daring — with much to say about the human condition. He was a quirky, interesting person; he said (in his books, and in person) exactly what was on his mind.

  • AEB

    Purdy’s books are readily available on Amazon:


    Exquisite, surreal…fabulously grotesque….

  • Dr Larry Myers

    my play “Interviewing Mr. James Purdy” will open at The Starving Artist Theater in Ocean Grove,Nj in fall
    James DID NOT WANT any memorial service
    not his style!
    This is my goodbye to him/or hello