Monday, July 20, 2009

Candles for James

James Purdy's birthday was July 17th. He was never one to make a fuss and there was never any kind of dinner or party to celebrate (or bemoan) the passage of another year. I would call him or at least send him a postcard from wherever I happened to be in July.

"Vicky!" he'd say when I called in a tone that was both surprised and pleased.

We never spoke for very long - James always got a little impatient with the telephone after a few minutes - but before he hung up he always said, "I love you!"

"Love you too, James!" I would reply.

Now that he's gone, there's no postcard to write or phone call to make. But it didn't seem right to not be in touch somehow. So a dozen of us who cared for James and worked with him gathered in front of his Brooklyn Heights dream palace at dusk this past Friday. We lit candles and it seemed natural to stand in a circle facing his front door. Some of us read passages from THE HOUSE OF THE SOLITARY MAGGOT and EUSTACE CHISHOLM AND THE WORKS and fragments of writing that had been personally bestowed. John recited The Running Sun, which seemed strangely appropriate:

We who are under the ground
Indians and voyagers and wilderness men
Still breathe the bloom of plants in the air
And dream of the running sun.

Then we took one last look at the corner window where James used to live and one by one blew out our candles.


  1. Glad to see you're back at it. Nice shots, especially from below.

  2. I am sorry I missed what looks and sounds like it was a beautiful ceremony. Maybe this can be an annual event. . .

  3. Looking at this again two years after his passing, I am, again, so moved. Thank you so much for posting this, Victoria. --Michael Snyder

  4. Hi Michael, Thanks so much for your response! I wrote a more in-depth obit at I think about James all the time.