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3.78  ·  Rating details ·  253 Ratings  ·  25 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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Vit Babenco
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
James Purdy took French Candide and transplanted him to the American society in the middle of the twentieth century, on the way turning the famous Bildungsroman into the absurdist comedy.
So Malcolm – our clueless hero – finds himself in the thick of weird bohemians, artists, magnates, mystics, minxes and freaks.
…undertaking is perhaps the most aesthetic of all professions, and indeed the most universal.

And everything he sees around just makes him wonder…
Malcolm wrote down a statement original
Mar 26, 2012 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
May 30, 2008 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,
Simon A. Smith
Jul 02, 2007 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
Mar 03, 2009 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
Oct 26, 2015 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?)
Nov 04, 2008 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.
Aug 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A hilarious high camp oddity. Utterly original, and thoroughly enjoyable.
Kobe Bryant
Not that absurd nor funny
Oct 08, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What the hell did I just read? An opening fascinating enough to make me buy the book quickly devolved into a series of unrelated events. It then finished up being somewhat interesting. The point of the entire book is lost on me.

The opening genuinely had me excited enough to think I'd found an author worth diving into more deeply. I ordered other books by him from the library. But about twenty pages into this book, I was bored out of my mind. A book of Purdy's short stories has a glowing introduc
Oct 16, 2014 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
Apr 02, 2013 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
Colin N.
Jul 25, 2011 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 12, 2007 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 06, 2013 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.
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
il giovane holden nel paese delle meraviglie (con in più qualcosa de "la schiuma dei giorni"): malcom appare un giorno su una panchina, orfano (?) non solo del padre ma anche di un passato vero e proprio, incontra un sedicente astrologo e tramite questi inizia a conoscere personaggi surreali che in qualche modo finiscono per essergli vicini. si legge tutto d'un fiato e alla fine ci si affeziona a questo mondo bizzarro ma a suo modo coerente: e vorresti giusto che durasse di più.
May 13, 2011 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.
Jun 29, 2015 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.
Jul 05, 2013 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.
Jun 03, 2007 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.
Corina Murafa
The book reminded me of magical realism a la Garcia Marquez, but also of absurd theater. A quick reading and very surprising characters. I recommend it for literature connaiseurs, it is not an easy reading.
Oct 02, 2013 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.
May 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Purdy is not a well known writer. I loved this absurdist take on lost of innocence.
Aug 02, 2012 rated it it was ok

Pesantuccio, ma in fin dei conti (o sul finir del libro) ne vale la pena!
Aug 04, 2008 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.
Desinas remedia
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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.

More about James Purdy...