James Purdy, Author . Carroll & Graf $14 (240p) ISBN 978-0-7867-1417-9

Jewels, songs, grandmothers, wills and Ouija boards—the stuff of an old storyteller's magic—keep popping up in these 12 unusual, often fantastical stories by the prolific and under-recognized Purdy (Malcolm ; In a Shallow Grave ; etc.). "Kitty Blue," in which a beloved talking feline is catnapped by the nefarious proprietor of a burlesque hall, and "A Little Variety, Please," in which a dragon rescues a young girl from her nasty adoptive parents, feel like fairy tales, but look at "happily ever after" from oblique angles. Indeed, the most compelling of the stories approximate folktales, refulgent with old-fashioned vernacular speech and character names. In "Easy Street," Mother Green and Viola Daniels, a pair of elderly "ladies in retirement," unexpectedly inherit a fortune from a mysterious but kindly movie star. "Reaching for Rose" describes the tragic, bizarre end of a lonesome, aging man who talks to himself every night in a barroom phone booth. And in the title novella, which involves a Russian gem expert and a case of mummified candy, Vesta Hawley desperately tries to reconnect with her teenage son, Rory, who has left home to live at Moe's Villa, a restaurant and gambling den in the rural village of Gilboa. Purdy's smooth, naturalistic prose explores themes of love, loneliness and loss in the context of the surreal—a gratifying mix indeed. Agent, Emma Purdy. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/04/2004
Release date: 09/01/2004
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