Ten miles of rough road separate the ghost town of Bodie from the paved highway. Swift-moving clouds add to the particularly scenic melancholy. In a group of people, Bodie is charming, even a little mysterious; but when you stand alone in the shade of a crumbling house, you feel the severed edge of civilization. Bodie’s allure runs deeper than the harpsichord in the schoolroom or the bleached swatches in the window of the general store. Bodie embodies the hope that no matter how brutal our present, the past was infinitely worse.

He leaves his imprint on me still, six years later.

Laundry for instance.

I still toss socks and underwear in a pile, to be folded last. I still tie long socks into a knot rather than roll them in a ball since rolling them in a ball stretches out the elastic.


In 2000 I had the opportunity to write a 10,000 word bio/crit piece on James Purdy for Scribner’s American Writers Series. Jay Parini, who was editor of those tomes at the time, gave me the green light when I suggested a piece on Purdy. James was always on my mind as a great writer who was under read. This would be my chance to champion his words.