Cabot Wright Begins

Cabot Wright Begins

by James Purdy
     
 

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Cabot Wright Begins, first published in 1964, may be one of the most neglected masterpieces in post–World War II American literature.

Cabot Wright is a handsome, Yale-educated stockbroker and scion of a good family. He also happens to be the convicted rapist of nearly three hundred women. Bernie Gladhart is a naive used-car salesman from Chicago,

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Overview

Cabot Wright Begins, first published in 1964, may be one of the most neglected masterpieces in post–World War II American literature.

Cabot Wright is a handsome, Yale-educated stockbroker and scion of a good family. He also happens to be the convicted rapist of nearly three hundred women. Bernie Gladhart is a naive used-car salesman from Chicago, who—spurred on by his ambitious wife—decides to travel to Brooklyn and write the Great American Novel about the recently paroled Cabot Wright. As Bernie tries to track down Wright in Brooklyn, he encounters a series of bizarre and Dickensian characters and sets in motion an extraordinary chain of events. In this merciless and outrageous satire of American culture, cult writer James Purdy is unsparing and prophetic in his portrayal of television, publishing, Wall Street, race, urban poverty, sex, and the false values of American culture in a work compared to Candide by Susan Sontag. Considered too scabrous for the stifling culture mores of the early 1960s, Purdy's comic fiction evokes "an American psychic landscape of deluded innocence, sexual obsession, violence and isolation" (New York Times).

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Even in 1964, when this novel was first published, it would have been an uphill slog to plausibly characterize a serial rapist as a philanthropist, and the angle of ascent has only increased in the ensuing decades. Cabot Wright works on Wall Street after graduating from college, but his main activity is rape—“he was no respecter of age, raping girls, young ladies, middle-aged matrons, and even elderly women.” But Wright is no violent psychopath; he uses “some form of hypnotism” on his prey, raping “easily and well.” If that description isn’t offensive enough, having women eagerly anticipating his attentions rather than fearing them will be more than most readers will tolerate, even if offered with tongue-in-cheek awareness. Wright’s predations are recounted via an awkward framing device—a sad-sack car salesman, Bernie Gladhart, is egged on by his wife to travel to Brooklyn to interview Wright for a novel based on his life. Pretentious prose (“Loneliness feels so good after the mythic contact with the social”) doesn’t enhance this unsuccessful satire. (July)
New York Times Book Review - Susan Sontag
“It might be loosely described as a bravura work of satire—a satire on pornographic fantasy, a satire on New York literary life, a satire on affluent eccentric mid-century America. Except that satire is perhaps too narrow a term to convey the kind of comedy that Purdy writes…Rather [it is] the vehicle for a universal comic vision.”
Paul Bowles
“James Purdy has succeeded better than anyone else around at the moment in re-creating the U.S.A. and presenting it simultaneously as his own invention and as a faithful reflection of reality—not an easy feat. Cabot Wright Begins is a delight all the way through.”
Susan Sontag - New York Times Book Review
“It might be loosely described as a bravura work of satire—a satire on pornographic fantasy, a satire on New York literary life, a satire on affluent eccentric mid-century America. Except that satire is perhaps too narrow a term to convey the kind of comedy that Purdy writes…Rather [it is] the vehicle for a universal comic vision.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780871406972
Publisher:
Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publication date:
07/15/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
224
File size:
0 MB

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