Malcolm: A Comic Novel
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The twenty-first-century revival of James Purdy continues with his classic novel of innocence and corruption.
Introduced simply as “the boy on the bench,” the titular character of Malcolm is a Candide-like figure who is picked up by the “most famous astrologer of his period” and introduced to a series of increasingly absurd characters and bizarre situations in “the most prodigiously funny book to streak across these heavy-hanging times” (Dorothy Parker).
Malcolm, I won’t deny that I have never liked any of my wife’s friends. You are the first.” “You mean, you really are in earnest about me?” Malcolm was surprised. “Why, of course I am in earnest!” Mr. Girard replied a bit hotly. “I am always in earnest.” “But you see, Mr. Girard, sir, you do not understand,” Malcolm assured him. “Until I met Mr. Cox on the bench my whole life was just this hotel suite. There was nothing much to it. And now suddenly, invitations from everywhere, people ringing
“I knew it!” Eloisa cried helplessly. “You’re ribbing me.” “You invented modern jazz, don’t deny it,” the little man went over to Eloisa’s chair. “Stop him,” Eloisa implored Malcolm with a look of futility. “And your marriage to Jerome!” Kermit went on. “Is it not the marriage of the century?” “Kermit, stop right there with my marriage. If you go further—” and she made a frantic gesture. “I can’t hear—no, not even a compliment concerning my marriage. My marriage is too close, somehow, to—”
it into the fireplace. “I hate both those goddam capitalists, the Girards,” Jerome cried. Eloisa Brace began wringing her hands, and Malcolm stared open-mouthed, pieces of apple still unchewed showing on his half-protruding tongue. Kermit was looking blackly angry in his own corner. “But you yourself were always wishing for money,” Eloisa expostulated. “And they paid it for a painting.” “They did not, and you know they did not,” roared Jerome. “Oh, my darling,” Eloisa Brace said, and she
afternoon, while she listened intermittently to Girard Girard entertain her at the piano. He played Scarlatti tolerably well, and he was playing him now to quiet her. “In a little while you will go out to commit your routine adulteries,” she said to him above his playing. “And,” she continued, unsure whether he had heard her or not, “while you embrace laundresses and chambermaids, I am deprived of the sight of Malcolm, before whom I only wish to light candles. My loves have always been of that
(1914–2009) was born in rural Ohio, moving to Chicago at an early age and eventually to Brooklyn. First recognized by critics in Britain, his published works—including nineteen novels in addition to story collections and plays—have been widely translated. He was awarded two Guggenheim Fellowships, Ford and Rockefeller Foundation grants, the Morton Dauwen Zabel Fiction Award from the Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Clifton Fadiman Medal, and was nominated for a PEN/Faulkner Award. Copyright