The Candles of His Eyes: Stories of James Purdy

full name / name of organization: 
Dennis Moore / James Purdy Society
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The Candles of His Eyes: Stories of James Purdy
American Literature Association 24th Annual Conference
May 23-26, 2013
Boston, Westin Copley Place
Presented by the James Purdy Society

In July 2013, Norton/Liveright will publish The Complete Short Stories of James Purdy with an introduction by director John Waters, an aficionado of Purdy's work. This constitutes a major publishing event that might be likened to the publication of the Collected Stories of another admirer, Tennessee Williams, with its introduction by Gore Vidal. Purdy's short fiction has also been praised by the likes of Langston Hughes, Marianne Moore, Paul Bowles, Katherine Anne Porter, Thornton Wilder, William Carlos Williams, Dame Edith Sitwell, and many others.

The James Purdy Society invites proposals for presentations of 15-20 minutes that engage Purdy's surprising, trenchant short fiction. Presentations discussing his novels, plays, or poetry will also be considered. Best known as a novelist, Purdy is a highly original and incisive short story writer. Via this genre Purdy established his writing career. With his stark, economical early style and sometimes shocking content, Purdy struggled to publish only two short stories from the mid-1930s through the early 1950s. But with the help of his friend Osborn Andreas, a Chicago industrialist and literary critic, Purdy published the collection Don't Call Me by My Right Name and sent it to authors, critics, actors, and others whom he intuitively felt would be sympathetic to his work. The novella 63: Dream Palace followed, its publication sponsored by Purdy's friend and former colleague at Lawrence College, chemist Jorma Sjoblom. This strategy was fruitful. English poet Edith Sitwell offered very high praise and helped Purdy to be published in England, leading to his U.S. publication by New Directions. Harlem Renaissance patron and author Carl Van Vechten took Purdy under his wing, helping him make connections that furthered his career. Tennessee Williams became a life-long admirer of Purdy's work and urged him to write plays, as did Lillian Hellman. Several other famous recipients such as Samuel Beckett wrote back, expressing their gratitude for this striking new work. During his lifetime, Purdy's short stories were collected in Color of Darkness, Children is All, A Day after the Fair, The Candles of Your Eyes, and Moe's Villa and Other Stories.

Topics may include but are not limited to:
Representations of race and ethnicity; Use of ethnic vernacular and idiom (e.g. African American, Appalachian white, Native American)
Same-sex desire and repression; Critique of Cold War-era institutionalized homophobia
Biographical influences (e.g. Northwest Ohio, Chicago, and Brooklyn; rural and urban settings)
Purdy's women, women's narratives, and feminist readings
From short story to drama (e.g. "Ruthanna Elder"); Short film and other adaptations
Genre, form, style (magical realism, short short story, fairy tale, allegory, novella, et cetera)
Midwestern literature, idiom, the colloquial, and "real American speech"; influence of Midwestern authors such as Sherwood Anderson and Hemingway
Violence, the grotesque, and the gothic
Disability Studies and representations of the body
Critical reception and history and the influence of critical homophobes and homophiles
Original publication context (Black Mountain Review, Mademoiselle, Antioch Review); Literary scenes
Representations of youth and the elderly
Psychoanalytic criticism/psychological approaches
Queries welcome.

Please send 250-500 word proposals ASAP (Due Date January 27) to the panel organizer:

Dr. Michael Snyder
Oklahoma City Community College
Arts & Humanities
7777 S. May Ave
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73159

For more information on The James Purdy Society,
For more information on the American Literature Association and its 24th Annual Conference: