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3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  194 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
Long out of print, James Purdy's novel Malcolm, first published in 1959, established Purdy as "one of the greatest writers produced in America during the past hundred years" (Dame Edith Sitwell). Malcolm is the bizarre story of an innocent young man of 'exceptional beauty' who becomes involved in a series of comic and poignant adventures. Taken under the wing of a famous a ...more
Paperback, 196 pages
Published January 1st 1994 by Serpent's Tail (first published 1959)
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Apr 08, 2012 Mariel rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: hum the blues from two streets away
Recommended to Mariel by: Simon
Hey, Lady Day, can you save my life again? My only
love has gone away will you be my only friend? Billie you're a genius
enough to be a fool a fool to gamble everything and never know the rules...
- 'My Only Friend' by The Magnetic Fields (my third favorite band if anyone is counting)

Word on the street is that James Purdy's Malcolm is based on Billie Holiday. I don't know because I've had my ear too close to the sidewalk cracks again and break your mama's back. My Billie Holiday knowledge is ste
Eddie Watkins
Oct 14, 2014 Eddie Watkins rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-fiction
Just saw that Mr. Purdy has died, after a long productive and contrary life. Long live his novels! A true feisty independent and fantastic writer. He may be gone but it's never to late to discover him.

* * * *

This has the classic premise of an innocent being introduced to the vast variety of the world. Malcolm is a boy with the mysterious quality of a Kaspar Hauser-type figure. He has been abandoned by his father and left in what I assume is New York City,
Nov 04, 2014 Benjamin rated it really liked it
Malcolm, about fifteen years of age, has spent every day for the last year sitting on the bench in front of his plush hotel, where he has a suite, waiting for his father to return, but now his money is in danger of running out. One day Mr Cox approaches him, and offers help; he provides Malcolm with a series of address and people to meet who might help him and get him away from his bench. This leads Malcolm to come into contact with among others a retired undertaker, and midget, talented but unr ...more
Simon A. Smith
Jul 18, 2007 Simon A. Smith rated it it was amazing
Read this book! What a fascinating story by such a fascinating author. Malcolm is an orphaned boy who meets a man named Mr. Cox who leads him on a wild odyssey throughout a nameless city. The predominantly wealthy and extravagent characters Malcolm meets along the way fight for his affection and struggle to capture his youth. In the end, the weary and drastically affected Malcolm discovers that the father he's been waiting and searching for, the source of all his confusion and angst, may never h ...more
Nov 02, 2015 Clelia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the strangest novels I've ever read... a mix of Edward Gorey, Nathanael West, and David Lynch. I think I need to go back and re-read it later, to really understand it; right now I feel smacked upside the head (but in a good way?)
Mar 03, 2009 Djrmel rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, classic, glbt
The blurb on the back of the 1967 Avon Paperback edition says, "Malcolm is the bizarre story of an innocent young man of "exceptional beauty" discovered sitting on a park bench one day waiting for his father. He gets up and goes on a remarkable odyssey meeting improbable characters in situations that are strange, ribald, and poignant." What it doesn't say is how dark this story is, as the "improbable characters" treat Malcolm as a possession rather than a fifteen year old boy. It's a sad story, ...more
Apr 17, 2013 EMM rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel was way more fun than I was led to believe. The gay content is pretty low though. The book is absurd and entertaining, surprisingly funny mostly because of the dialogue and the unbelievable characters starting with Malcolm himself. The main character is not a complete idiot, maybe 85 percent. Malcolm becomes a lighting rod for crazy possessiveness from a bunch of people that we could call eccentric if we wanted to be generous, but otherwise we would just call them lunatics, narcissist ...more
Jun 29, 2015 Teri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A recent re-read, and impressed by as much now as then (a rarity). Was introduced to Purdy somewhere in the '70's and was captivated by the story telling. Actually heard him read while at Ohio State -- a singular experience, equal parts uncomfortable (he seemed to be) and enthralling. What a tale teller.
Colin N.
Jul 25, 2011 Colin N. rated it liked it
What a really bizarre novel. "Malcolm" follows the strange journey of the title character, a 15 year old kid whose father has disappeared and who sits on a bench in front of his hotel every day. Malcolm is very much a blank slate, yet everyone he meets is charmed and immediately taken by him. After meeting an astrologer, Mr. Cox, one day, Malcolm is gradually introduced to ever-increasingly bizarre characters who befriend him.

"Malcolm" is often quite funny, the people and situations he finds hi
Sep 14, 2007 Kyle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-gay-men
This 1959 novel was extemely weird. The cover blurbs portray it as so shocking and outre at the time, but it was way too tame for me. There was hardly any overt homosexuality in it, nor really any overt sexuality of any kind. There were a bunch of weird artists and musicians and the plot seemed to kind of wimp out on making any kind of conclusion by having the main character die. Still, it was so weird that I couldn't stop reading it to see what would happen, although if I had known that there w ...more
May 13, 2013 Mark rated it liked it
A truly interesting and unusual book. Has an almost children's book like quailty. Its characters and their adventures can be taken at face value or as symbols and work effectively either way. I can understand why Albee was drawn to dramatize it because it also has an abstractness that is reflective of his sensabililty. Satirical without being biting. Reminded me vaguely of Ronald Firbank. Intriguing.
May 29, 2011 Steve rated it really liked it
Very unusual book. My understanding is that the end is his fever-dream account of his love affair with Billie Holiday. The rest is just, well, off the charts weird in an Alice-in-Wonderland way. Highly recommended for those interested in experimental literature. A strange narrative filled with strange characters.
Jul 10, 2007 Borden rated it it was amazing
I thought this book was hard to get into, but after about forty pages I was hooked. I love that character so much! I love all of the eccentrics that fill that book. I would have to throw out spoilers if I elaborated, but this is the best book I've read this year.
Nov 15, 2008 Jail rated it liked it
This book has a great "huh?" quality to it. The bizzare overly literate dialogue, the complete lack of plot, sentimental feelings and the weird ending where it seems almost like Purdy just sort of ended it in a fit of pique. I really liked it.
Jul 05, 2013 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
this book was hilarious. i seriously loled. i agree with the other reviewer about the ending. i thought it was pretty weak. otherwise, i had such a grand time reading the meat of this book. curl up with a nice mimosa and read yourself fabulous.
Oct 06, 2013 Pucifer rated it really liked it
A comic picaresque tale featuring some of the funniest, campiest and most arch dialog ever written, with unexpected turns into the grotesque and heartbreaking. This novel, written in 1959, seems light-years ahead of its time.
Aug 11, 2008 Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not ready to put my thoughts together on this one yet because I have a most serious head cold right now, but I really really liked it, and it made me smile through a sinus headache.
Aug 22, 2012 Francesco rated it it was ok

Pesantuccio, ma in fin dei conti (o sul finir del libro) ne vale la pena!
May 02, 2013 Don rated it really liked it
Purdy is not a well known writer. I loved this absurdist take on lost of innocence.
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Lily Arango rated it it was amazing
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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.

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