|About the Book|
The theme of James Purdys new novel is love—the unpredictable, unexpected and almost incredible forms in which it sometimes makes an appearance in life. The setting of Eustace Chisholm and the Works is Chicago in the late depression era of theMoreThe theme of James Purdys new novel is love—the unpredictable, unexpected and almost incredible forms in which it sometimes makes an appearance in life. The setting of Eustace Chisholm and the Works is Chicago in the late depression era of the mid-thirties.Around the figure of Ace Chisholm, in his run-down flat on 55th Street, gather a group of Americans displaced by economic distress from the small towns and rural areas they grew up in. They are the works about whom Eustace knows all there is to be known and at times more than they know themselves. There are Amos Ratcliffe, too young to be eligible for relief when his university fellowship is terminated- Clayton Harms, an electric-sign salesman- Carla, Eustaces runaway wife- Daniel Haws, who runs his rooming-house like a staff sergeant- Reuben Masterson, heir to millions- his imperious and surprised grandmother- Maureen ODell, a painter- and Dr. Beaufort Vance, an abortionist. There are also outsiders like Cousin Ida, the mother of Amos, and Captain Stadger, the commanding officer described as death in circles, who are nevertheless deeply involved with the others.The central story is the strange one of young Amos Ratcliffe and hard-bitten Daniel Haws. The latter, unable to acknowledge to himself the bewildering attraction that Amos has for him, becomes a sleepwalker in their rooming- house, and by that means reveals the love he cannot otherwise face. After Daniels flight into the Army, he finds savage retribution at the hands of the avenging Captain Stadger. Eustace, the bitter commentator who is surprised by nothing, acts as a kind of Greek chorus throughout the narrative. As history itself moves from the depression toward the greater disaster of war, the characters continue their search for love in an increasingly indifferent and loveless world.Eustace Chisholm and the Works, James Purdys fifth novel, is as unlike any of the previous four—63: Dream Palace, Malcolm, The Nephew, Cabot Wright Begins—as they are unlike one another. In this book he is not only the most trenchantly individual commentator on American sexual values and relations, as the Time critic has stated- he is in the words of the late Dame Edith Sitwell, one of the greatest living writers of fiction in our language.---From the first-edition dust jacket.