The James Purdy Society
Minutes of Founding Meeting
25 October 2003
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
PRESENT: Don Adams, Joel Anderson, Michael Bennett, Brian Evenson, Nancy Frazier, Hans Gelders, Diana George, Amanda Gustafson, Flournoy Holland, Norma Jenckes, Martin Kich, Joe Kraus, Christopher Lane, Victoria Linchon, Susan Lowenstein-Kitchell, Roman Marocco, Thomas Henry Martin, Shawn Miller, Dennis Moore, Kerrie O'Leary, Eric Olsen, Donald Pease, Jr., David Ray, Cathy Schlund-Vials, Matthew Schmidt, Joseph Skerrett, Jr., Matthew Stadler, John Uecker, and Ron Welburn.
NOT PRESENT: John Hanshe, Darryl Hattenhouer, Eileen Kelly, Shawn Miller, Gerald Rosen, Edmund M. Scheer, Jay Twomey and Paul Zakrzewski.
ATTENDING: Anne Herrington, Chair of the Dept. of English and Lee R. Edwards, Dean of the College of Humanities & the Fine Arts, from the University of Mass., Amherst.
The meeting began at approximately 1:15 pm, with Joseph Skerrett, Jr. as Acting Convenor. The meeting was held Saturday in conjunction with “Assessing James Purdy,” the first ever symposium on the lifetime of work by James Purdy, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
There was a general consensus that the James Purdy Society (JPS) should be formed. The society would incorporate and seek tax-exempt status as an educational 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.
Joseph S. proposed that the JPS apply to join the American Literature Association (ALA). (See http://americanliterature.org/.) The ALA is an academic association of ‘author societies,’ with, primarily, academic members and some writers. The alternative of being a part of the Modern Language Association (MLA) was also considered. (See http://www.mla.org/.) The MLA acceptance process was reported to have more ‘hoops and ladders’ and also to have a more rigorous procedure for acceptance of submitted papers and/or to have a session included in their annual conference. The ALA would guarantee a session at their annual symposium. It was suggested that exposure through the MLA would also be possible by approaching them for a session at some point in the future with a separate corresponding call for papers for a panel presentation. This would be a whole other audience and group of people to engage. In either case, we would proceed to establish an independent not-for-profit corporation.
The group discussed several other governance issues, including whether a board of directors should be established as well as creating an advisory board, with, for example, people such as Gore Vidal. The question of structure, such as incorporation and applying for tax-exempt status versus using an umbrella organization, was left open pursuant to further investigation and the involvement of more people. To that end, Mathew S. pointed out the tremendous support James has from people in creative spheres (other than academic and literature spheres) who would also be interested in participating which would incorporate diverse creative energies.
As such, John U. spoke of Running Sun Theatre Company in NYC and their approach. The theatre is dedicated to producing James’s plays and is powerful avenue for exposing people to James’s work. Looking forward, John also spoke about efforts to get a new movie made based on James’s work, with the belief that today TV and movies are the most effective strategy to really get wide exposure and attention.
The conversation culminated with developing a mission statement for JPS: to help create a greater readership for James Purdy’s work and to help get his work recognized for its worth, artistry, creativity and skill. A corollary to that is the desired goal to see James’s work included in the curricula of more institutions. An important strategy identified would be to help get things back into print (which relates to being able to use James for teaching). Other suggestions were to play a part in promotion and relaying ‘news’ about publications, productions, etc. Activities could include such things as creating and maintaining a website and using resources such as the Associated Writers’ Project for free publishing space for notices, etc. Also, the JPS would be a means for people interested in James’s work to connect to each other. These ideas will be used to create a draft mission statement.
Dennis M. volunteered to serve as a coordinator for the society, manage the database and set-up either a discussion group or list-serve. (He has a background with not-for-profit organizations and expressed his commitment to helping create a group that would endure.) He will also research and assist with the governance issues. Joseph S. offered to prepare and submit the application to the ALA. John U. committed to securing access for the group to selections of James’s work, including some of his drawings. Martin K. offered to establish a website on the Wright State University server (see below).
We will need people to serve on the steering committee/bylaws task force to help with governance proposals and incorporation of the society. Anyone interested should contact Dennis Moore at email@example.com.
A lively portion of the meeting was spent brainstorming about the potential and possibilities for the James Purdy Society website. Suggestions for content included a bibliography, biographical information, timeline, publication and production/reading notices, purchase availability information/links, calendar of events, notices of calls for papers, photos, information about the James Purdy Society, selected works by James (including some of his drawings), essays, reviews, and links. In addition, there was a strong interest to have an educational resource to use to help include James’s work in different curricula – such as posting sample syllabi and having the site be a resource/aid for students. The ability for visitors to post comments for James was also suggested. (A website is already up at: http://www.wright.edu/~martin.kich/PurdySoc/Cover.htm.)
Content, ideas, suggestions, links, etc. should be sent to Martin Kich at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meeting adjourned at ~1:50 pm.
James Purdy Society
We plan to have the next meeting for the [full] JPS at the 2004 symposium.
The next symposium on James Purdy’s work is being planned for 2004 at Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire, to be convened by Donald Pease.
On behalf of the James Purdy Society, I would like to thank the University of Massachusetts Amherst; Lee. R. Edwards, Dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts; Anne Herrington, Chair of the Department of English; and especially Joseph T. Skerrett, Jr., Professor of English, for hosting, organizing and producing such a marvelous event!
The University covered all the expenses and, on top of that, provided plenty of great food and refreshments throughout the day! I know most who attended, if not all, went away extremely pleased at the quality and scholarship of all the presentations and depth of thought behind them. And, I know that I can speak for others to say we are very excited about preparing for next year!
Deep appreciation also goes to those who submitted papers and gave presentations:
Don Adams, Florida Atlantic University [James Purdy's Allegories of Love]
Flournoy Holland, University of Massachusetts Amherst [The Origin and Allure of Instability in James Purdy's Short Fiction]
Norma Jenckes, University of Cincinnati [Failing Better: Edward Albee's Dramatization of James Purdy's Malcolm]
Martin Kich, Wright State University - Lake Campus [Assessing the Assessments: Five Decades of Comment on James Purdy's Works]
Joe Kraus, King's College [Confronting (or Not) the Absent Father in James Purdy]
Christopher Lane, Northwestern University [James Purdy's Family Poetics]
Gerald Rosen, Sonoma State University (in absentia) [Befriending James Purdy, 1969-1973: A Memoir]
Matthew Stadler, Novelist, Portland, Oregon [James Purdy and the Theater of Real Speech, 1967-1974].
Special thanks to the students and people involved in Friday night’s reader’s theatre production of James’s 1996 one-act play Dangerous Moonlight:
John Uecker, Agent for James Purdy
Michael Y. Bennett, Director
Cathy Schlund-Vials, Dramaturgical Assistant
Briana Chalker [Lola]
Katharine Scarborough [Hilda]
Ash Hsie [Val Noble].
Also, thank you to the students who helped throughout the weekend: Joel Anderson, Michael Bennett, and Cathy Schlund-Vials.
Lastly, the people I met and talked with expressed an enormous amount of respect for James, his unique body of work, his integrity as an artist, generous spirit, great humor, often his kindness and encouragement, influence on their life and, for some, their own calling and work. So it is fitting, and no less, to end this report with a tremendous thank you to James Purdy himself!