Other Literary Forms
Although he wrote poems and plays throughout his career, James Purdy’s reputation rests primarily on his work as a novelist and writer of short stories. His first two novels, Malcolm (1959) and The Nephew (1960), caused the most critical stir. In fact, Malcolm was adapted for the stage in 1966 by American dramatist Edward Albee. In the 1960’s, Purdy was touted as one of the United States’ most promising writers, especially because of his experimentation with the conventions of the fiction genre.
By the end of that decade, however, the critical response to Purdy’s work had become increasingly fractured. Purdy himself claimed that his public unhappiness with the literary establishment was the reason for this mixed response; others point to his controversial themes and grotesque characters and plots. Although Purdy continued to have his ardent admirers, frequently his works have been disparaged and ignored.