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Soul of a Whore and Purvis: Two Plays in Verseby Denis Johnson
Synopses & Reviews
Two plays—hilarious and searing in equal measure—by one of our most essential and original authors
In his poetry, short stories, novels, and plays, the National Book Award-winning author Denis Johnson has explored the story of America—especially of the West, land of self-made men and self-perpetuating myths—with searing honesty and genuine sympathy. These two plays, written in verse at once hypnotic and clear, confirm his position as one of our great verbal stylists and a literary conscience for our times.
In Soul of a Whore, a lively cast of characters—faith healers, pimps, strippers, actual demons—converge, with unexpected hilarity, as Bess Cassandra awaits execution for the murder of her infant daughter. Purviss seven reverse-chronological scenes catalog the fall and rise of Melvin Purvis, the G-man who brought down John Dillinger and Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd. Johnson takes us from Washingtons back rooms to a Midwestern cornfield, dramatizing the seductive allure of power and our own human capacity for both pettiness and grace.
In these furiously entertaining, occasionally terrifying works, Johnson chronicles and questions Americas myths, heroes, and everyday realities with verve and elegance, revealing himself once again to be at the height of his linguistic and insightful powers.
About the Author
Denis Johnson is the author of nine novels, three collections of poetry, and one book of reportage. Between 2000 and 2010, during his stint as Playwright in Residence for the Campo Santo Theater Company at San Franciscos Intersection for the Arts, he wrote six productions for the stage, all premiered by Campo Santo. His novel Tree of Smoke was the 2007 winner of the National Book Award, and his novella Train Dreams was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction.
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