Poet and novelist James Purdy was born in Hicksville, Ohio. He earned a BA in French at Bowling Green State College and an MA in English at the University of Chicago. Throughout his career, his work repeatedly met with resistance from editors and reviewers. Following a succession of rejections from New York magazine editors, Purdy privately published his first collection of short stories, Don’t Call Me by My Right Name (1956), with the assistance of Chicago businessman Osborn Andreas. The collection caught poet Edith Sitwell’s attention, and she became a major advocate of Purdy’s work.
Over the course of his career, Purdy published more than a dozen novels and numerous collections of poetry, short stories, and plays. Often gothic in nature, his work is characterized by its dark tone and scathing appraisal of American society. Purdy encountered continuous negative criticism from reviewers throughout the decades, but Gore Vidal, Jonathan Franzen, and others have praised Purdy as a modern American genius. He died in 2009 in Brooklyn Heights.
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