Moe's Villa and Other Stories

Overview

A literary cult hero, James Purdy's exquisitely surreal fiction has been populated for more than 40 years by social outcasts living in crisis and longing for love. His acclaimed first novel Malcolm (1959) won praise from writers as diverse as Dame Edith Sitwell, Dorothy Parker, Marianne Moore, and Gore Vidal, while his later books, from the award-winning Eustace Chisholm and the Works (1967) to In a Shallow Grave (1976), and Gertrude of Stony Island Avenue (1998) influenced new generations of authors from Dennis ...

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Overview

A literary cult hero, James Purdy's exquisitely surreal fiction has been populated for more than 40 years by social outcasts living in crisis and longing for love. His acclaimed first novel Malcolm (1959) won praise from writers as diverse as Dame Edith Sitwell, Dorothy Parker, Marianne Moore, and Gore Vidal, while his later books, from the award-winning Eustace Chisholm and the Works (1967) to In a Shallow Grave (1976), and Gertrude of Stony Island Avenue (1998) influenced new generations of authors from Dennis Cooper to Paul Russell. Moe's Villa and Other Stories, Purdy's first short-story collection in over a decade, showcases twelve new stories; from fairy tales about an opera diva whose mega-stardom is managed shrewdly by her talking cat to the little girl who runs off with a fire-breathing dragon to eat turtle soup; from a bizarre account of a desperate husband whose obsession over his wayward ex-wife leads to his fixation on a rare white dove to a visit to Moe's Villa, a private mansion doubling as a gambling casino where lonely boys are taught the art of poker by the Native American proprietor, Purdy takes his well-deserved place in the tradition of the finest American storytellers.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Jewels, songs, grandmothers, wills and Ouija boards-the stuff of an old storyteller's magic-keep popping up in these 12 unusual, often fantastical stories by the prolific and under-recognized Purdy (Malcolm; In a Shallow Grave; etc.). "Kitty Blue," in which a beloved talking feline is catnapped by the nefarious proprietor of a burlesque hall, and "A Little Variety, Please," in which a dragon rescues a young girl from her nasty adoptive parents, feel like fairy tales, but look at "happily ever after" from oblique angles. Indeed, the most compelling of the stories approximate folktales, refulgent with old-fashioned vernacular speech and character names. In "Easy Street," Mother Green and Viola Daniels, a pair of elderly "ladies in retirement," unexpectedly inherit a fortune from a mysterious but kindly movie star. "Reaching for Rose" describes the tragic, bizarre end of a lonesome, aging man who talks to himself every night in a barroom phone booth. And in the title novella, which involves a Russian gem expert and a case of mummified candy, Vesta Hawley desperately tries to reconnect with her teenage son, Rory, who has left home to live at Moe's Villa, a restaurant and gambling den in the rural village of Gilboa. Purdy's smooth, naturalistic prose explores themes of love, loneliness and loss in the context of the surreal-a gratifying mix indeed. Agent, Emma Purdy. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Twelve enigmatic portraits of private grief and secret love that make Purdy one of the strangest and most moving writers on the scene. The stories amply justify Purdy's reputation as a cult hero who's slowly (and belatedly) stepping into the light of day. Most are written in the author's distinctive voice, something between elegiac and fantastic. "Reaching Rose" is set entirely within the confines of a barroom, where a lonely old man tries to connect with a lost love by conducting imaginary conversations in an empty telephone booth-a form of escapism that eventually becomes tragic. Similarly, the jilted husband of "Bonnie," who loses his beautiful bride to divorce, finds her one morning on a New York park bench, only to lose her once more. "Entre Dos Luces" is a kind of ghost story, about two men who accidentally kill their landlord's pet ravens, then secretly replace them with birds that may have been possessed by demons from hell. "A Little Variety, Please," about a young girl who is pursued by a Green Dragon and eventually falls in love with him, is equally macabre but more lighthearted. But the finest are all love stories of one kind or another: "Geraldine" presents the frantic dismay of a woman, estranged from her mother, who feels herself losing the affections of her own teenaged son, while "Brawith" portrays the silent joy of a woman who takes her hopelessly wounded grandson out of the mental ward of a veteran's hospital to care for him in her own home. The title story, a novella about a wealthy heiress who turns her mansion into a sort of halfway house for drifters and waifs, plays with the same themes but goes on too long, losing the easy touch of the shorter pieces. Still, awelcome feast for fans of Purdy (Gertrude of Stony Island Avenue, 1998, etc.), as well as a nice taste for newcomers.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786714179
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 10/10/2004
  • Pages: 274
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

Kitty blue 1
Easy street 27
Reaching rose 53
Gertrude's hand 65
Entre dos luces 87
Geraldine 94
Bonnie 107
No stranger to Luke 115
A little variety, please 133
The white blackbird 142
Brawith 175
Moe's villa 189
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2004

    Mastery & Magic

    Every sentence of this collection is infused with authenticity and, yes, genius. Purdy proves, again, that he is sui generis, the most naturally singular voice in American literature. Other authors will themselves into writing in a vein or voice that sounds unique. Purdy IS unique, and clear, and unforgettable, and moving, and true. A great writer and a great collection.

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