"A SINGULAR AMERICAN VISIONARY": FIRST EDITION OF COLOR OF DARKNESS, 1957, A PRESENTATION/ASSOCIATION COPY INSCRIBED BY AUTHOR JAMES PURDY TO FEMINIST ICON SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR
PURDY, James. Color of Darkness. Eleven Stories and a Novella. (New York): New Directions, (1957). Octavo, original half gray cloth and black paper boards, original dust jacket. $4200.
First edition, first printing, presentation copy, of the first complete published work of James Purdy—acclaimed for "dialogue reminiscent of Hemingway… he can do more with a whisper than most fiction writers do with a shout"—inscribed to French feminist and intellectual Simone de Beauvoir: "For Simone de Beauvoir with great admiration and sincere good wishes from James Purdy. August 6, 1958."
There is a "genuinely strange, unsettling and indelible" quality to Purdy's writing… he saw Hawthorne and Melville, 'two other Calvinists,' as his literary antecedents, and it is not hard to interpret some of Purdy's protagonists as latter-day incarnations of Billy Budd and Young Goodman Brown" (New Yorker). To author Jerome Charyn, Purdy "invented a poetic dreamscape where evil and naiveté collide" (Newseek). In his complex, haunting novels and short prose, he proved "himself a writer of considerable power and impressive originality" (Time). Acknowledged "a singular American visionary" (New York Times), Purdy is widely considered "a 'writer's writer,' he earned the praise of such diverse talents as Lillian Hellman, Marianne Moore and James M. Cain… to say nothing of Edward Albee, Dorothy Parker and Gore Vidal," who called him an "authentic American genius" (NY Journal of Books).
Purdy, who died in 2009, wrote "dialogue reminiscent of Hemingway… [he] can do more with a whisper than most fiction writers do with a shout" (Virginia Quarterly Review). John Waters, in his introduction to a 2013 volume of Purdy's short prose, writes that he has "been dead center in the black little hearts of provocateur-hungry readers like myself right from the beginning." First edition, first printing: with no statement of edition or printings on the copyright page. Containing the novella 63: Dream Palace and eleven short stories by Purdy: featuring the first appearance in print of the title story, "Color of Darkness," and the story, "You May Safely Gaze." Preceded only by the previous year's Don't Call Me by My Right Name containing nine stories (included herein), and 63: Dream Palace: each privately printed and issued only in wrappers by "Osborn Andreas, a businessman with a penchant for Henry James" (Guardian) and by Purdy's friend Jorma Sjoblom. An English first edition issued the same year combined the nine stories and 63: Dream Palace: without the two stories appearing here for the first time. Young 2122. This copy is warmly inscribed by James Purdy to Simone de Beauvoir, the French feminist and intellectual. De Beauvoir was an award-winning author best known from her feminist treatise, The Second Sex. Purdy, in turn, was known for his intense focus on society's outsiders: women, African Americans, the LGBT community, Native Americans, the poor, and others. As a result, Purdy has trouble getting his work published. His friends, Osborn Andreas and Jorma Sjoblom, printed his first two books for him. However, Purdy could not rely on his friends forever. Attempting to build his public reputation, he sent copies of those first two books to writers and critics who he felt might be interested in his message. Dame Edith Sitwell and Simone de Beauvoir were two of the most important. Sitwell, in fact, persuaded Victor Gollancz to take on Purdy as a writer and to publish those first two books in a single volume under the title 63: Dream Palace. Beauvoir was also quite interested in Purdy's work. When Purdy sent her copies of 63 and a story titled, "Why Can't They Tell You Why?", Beauvoir responded enthusiastically, telling Purdy that she enjoyed the stories "very much." Purdy subsequently sent her this copy of this work with this warm inscription.
Book about-fine, with front pastedown repasted and mild toning to spine ends. Dust jacket near-fine, with only slight rubbing and a few tears expertly repaired. A handsome copy with wonderful provenance.