32nd out of 43 books — 22 voters
In a Shallow Grave
by James Purdy
A marvelous tour de force [about war and reconciliation] that engages as it entertains . . . very impressive.-Publishers Weekly
Paperback, 140 pages
Published January 1st 2001 by City Lights Publishers
(first published 1975)
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Five on a scale of five? No, 13 on a scale of 10. Imagine the combined spirits of Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor on LSD, channeling Rimbaud and Kafka - who are trying to outdo each other paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter, like jazz musicians trading eights. This is the book they would write. Layers and layers with surprise after surprise, every idea and action is qualified or contradicted, then contradicted again and that contradiction is qualified, and it's all perfect and spectacular....more
his book is one of the darkest that Purdy has written, about a veteran named Garnet Montrose who returns to his Southern home totally disfigured and nauseatingly repellent to anyone who sees him. His primary relationships are with two young men, Quintus Pearch and Potter Daventry, whom he hires to rub his feet and deliver messages to his childhood sweetheart, now the widow Georgina Rance. The story is told in first person, and once you get caught in its grim magic, you will not want to finish it...more
initially kind of slow-going, and then, at around the halfway point, weirdly transfixing. although i like william faulkner (and carson mccullers, john jeremiah sullivan, etc) i've always felt (completely baselessly) that i'm not super into the south (again, let me reiterate, a completely baseless claim, especially considering the dearth of southern literature i've read; i've read not a single story by flannery o'connor, oops). for some reason in a shallow grave let me realize the baselessness of...more
Mar 03, 2009 Djrmel rated it 5 of 5 stars
Have you ever loved a book so much it's hard to "review" it without telling the whole story? That's my problem with this book - I love the story and characters so much, I probably can't look at the execution as a seperate concept. I also can't say much without giving away the perfect twists and turns Purdy wrote into this of three (or four, depending how you read it) lives cross over and over to form a web of love and broken hearts. Garnet Montrose is only the most haunting of these characters -...more
James Purdy has a unique and eloquent style. This is the story of a hideously burned war veteran who, upon returning from the war, tries to find a way to reconnect with the woman he loves. His journey is worth reading; don't let the title or this short, seemingly depressing synopsis, stop you from reading this worthwhile book.
James Purdy is the most brilliant of our overlooked writers in the U.S. Subject of my master's thesis, championed by Dame Edith Sitwell, the great Terry Southern, the recently departed Gore Vidal and more. This is a great introductory novel to the brilliant, depressingly hilarious world of one of America's greatest talents.
James Otis Purdy's "dark, often savagely comic fiction evoked a psychic American landscape of deluded innocence, sexual obsession, violence and isolation." (NY Times obituary) He was an author of novels, short stories, poetry and plays. His works were controversial and often panned by critics but received praise from authors such as Edward Albee, Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker and Gore Vidal.More about James Purdy...