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The Candles of Your Eyes Paperback – 1 May 1991

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Paperback, 1 May 1991
£55.42 £0.39
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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: City Lights Books; 1st City Lights Books Ed edition (1 May 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0872862569
  • ISBN-13: 978-0872862562
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 14 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,075,778 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Purdy's skill is to make you write alternative stories in your mind as you read his tale. You become certain that the path you are treading is leading you to a familiar conclusion and the unexpectedly he takes you somewhere else altogether. I found it to be like playing chess, certain of what Purdy's next move would be I am suprised when he plays an entirely different move and places me in check. rescription: take one short story a day and complete the course. You will be better for it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Classic Tales From a Master Storyteller 25 May 2005
By Donald Gavron - Published on
Format: Hardcover
These stories will haunt you. James Purdy's stories are tight, compact and exacting in bringing his vision to light. Not a word is wasted. This is a slim but rich collection. From the opening tale "Some of These Days" to the bizarre narrative of "Lily's Party" to the heartbreaking "Summer Tidings," Purdy proves why his is a singular voice of the post WWII generation of writers. Gore Vidal has called him a genius. Dorothy Parker, Paul Bowles, Marianne Moore and Tennessee Williams have sung his praises. He is a high priest of the vernacular, a sorcerer of words, a weaver of tapestries comparable to the best writers in literature. That more people have not read him is a loss they will never know.
Dim Candles 7 Feb. 2015
By Anthony B. Cline - Published on
Format: Paperback
The opening stories in this collection, reminding one of the simpler character sketches seen in some of Faulkner's short fiction, provide no gradual segue into the complete and utter strangeness that is to come. 'Summer Tidings' and 'Scrap of paper' are very well done, but they could easily throw Purdy into a realist category that he does not wholly belong to. The first involves a gardener who seems a remote observer of a birthday party, his strange relationship with the family's son, and an ultimately melancholy ending that doesn't even attempt resolution. In fact, perhaps even more than Faulkner, one can sense the same sort of odd realism found in a story like Hemingway's 'A Clean Well-Lighted Place.' The second is a straightforward comedy of manners, an argument between a woman and her maid, shining light on their bizarre necessity for one another. But from here on out, for the majority of the remaining tales, the work is more conte cruel than soap opera, more magical realist than realistic.

'Lily's Party' is one of the downright oddest things I've ever read. A man walks in on a young woman who is eating pie. Here she almost instantly begins a monologue assailing this man's brother, her former lover, whom she says has wronged her over and over again. Exiting this house, the man tails the woman through the country, where she picks up another lover to bring back to her home behind the trees. Inexplicably, this turns into a sadomasochistic triangle involving voyeurism, excessive consumption of food, and interminable dissatisfaction. Its sheer repetition of depravity affects the reader on a gut level.

'Short Papa' tells the story of a young man who attempts to take care of his deadbeat father. The young man's mother has written her husband off, to the point that she will only let him stop by to eat outside on makeshift furniture. One day the son is given a watch, which ends up playing into the fortune of its giver. It is simple but unsettling, as Purdy throws all these characters in the air without much judgement, leaving only the sadness of a void.

'Mud Toe The Cannibal' has something of Cortazar to it, extracting a retired cannibal from his stomping grounds and transplanting him to the residence of a New York musician. The musician, in a hurry to go, offers his services to enliven again the life and hopes of the cannibal. Pure weirdness, temporal shifts, and philosophical nonsense. Totally wonderful.

'Dawn' is like a nightmare transcribed. The nightmare is that of every young person who ever migrated to the big city to begin a career. A father shows up at random, surprising his son's roommate, and proceeds to wait around to confront the son over a certain advertisement he posed for. None of this is handled in a straightforward way, instead playing out as a clash of archetypes, a father come back to reclaim some former innocence. Again Purdy infuses the short tale with a lingering sadness. Again there is a permeating oddity to it all.

'The Candles of Your Eyes' is my favorite story in the collection. It is a sketch of people on the fringes, this time two homeless men who are residents of a large abandoned building. Dependent on one another, things take a turn when the dominant of the two suddenly disappears without explanation. His partner, taking in a surrogate in the absence, attempts to live again. But when the man finally returns, he finds the structure ruined by a harsh winter and also something more than that gone forever. From this point forward it is clear that this is not only a tale of loss, but of madness.

Purdy is a master. I am now familiar with this and two novels, In a Shallow Grave and Mourners Below. Any literary reference, to other authors or their style, is almost irrelevant. The man was a world unto himself.
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