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Looking ‘to Be Without Trying to Be’: ‘The Complete Stories of James Purdy’

After a big-top production of Othello performed in a dilapidated, almost apocalyptic Chicago, Bruno Korsawski poses a strange question to his uneasy companion: “I wonder which one of us is more scared of the other.” Bruno’s inquiry reflects a mood that runs through much of The Complete Stories of James Purdy (Liveright/Norton; 724 pages)— that of universal paranoia, distrust, and fear, coupled with an intense sense of personal interdependence. Purdy (1914-2009) was admired by a wide range of authors and readers for his transgressive and often hilarious fictions, and produced an immense body of work that includes plays, poetry, novels, …Continue reading

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