Jed Purdy

Calhoun County native Jed Purdy, elevated to national fame after authoring a book in his second year of law school at Yale, is the subject of a Washington Post "whatever happened to..." feature article published April 13.

In "Boy wonder grows up, reflects on limelight," the author checks in with Purdy, the "home-schooled 24-year-old whose first book provokes a cultural maelstrom" to see what has become of the "wunderkinder" who wrote, "For Common Things: Irony, Trust, and Commitment in America Today" in 1999.

"The book prompted a mile-high pyramid of publicity, at the top of which was an easy-to-mock photo of Purdy 'contemplating a jar of tea' in the New York Times Magazine," according to the Washington Post article. "The critics fawned and raged, praised and patronized."

The book even earned the attention of Jerry Seinfeld on a Saturday Night Live episode.

"'For Common Things' got tagged in shorthand as the book that dissed 'Seinfeld,'" the article states. "Result: ironic reference made to Purdy by Jerry Seinfeld on 'Saturday Night Live.'"

Purdy, now 31, became an assistant professor at Duke University's law school in 2004, specializing in property law.

Raised in Chloe, Purdy and his sister were home-schooled by their parents. He attended Calhoun County High School for threes and earned a scholarship to attend Phillips Exeter in New Hampshire for his senior year. He earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard University in 1997.

According to the Washington Post, Purdy was one of Washington D.C.'s "intellectual darlings" and was named by Esquire magazine as one of the nation's "best and brightest."

Purdy's interview with the Post included reflections on the notoriety he achieved early in his professional development.

"It was a really, really interesting lesson in what the wish to be famous is about,'' Purdy said. Not that he expected the fame. "I think if you look at it, it doesn't look like a book you write because you want to get on the front page of things,'' he offered.

"The idea you have when you imagine celebrity is that a lot of people are going to know a lot about you and appreciate the things about you that you want them to appreciate. And it's like having a lot of really good friends.''

"And what happens, of course, is that people know snatches and confused summaries about you, and they attach their own hang-ups or agendas to those, and you're this vehicle for other people's opportunistic sentiments. ... And that's almost the opposite,'' he said.

Then there's the challenge of getting complex ideas across in a culture of bite-size media. "There was something about the way the book translated into short conversations, into sound bites, that did it a lot of violence. Not that everything about it was beautiful, perfect, poised, but it was not one of those books that was a 600,000-page version of a sentence.''

"And so people come up to you and say 'Are you Purdy? I also really hate our parents' generation,' '' he said. "I spent a lot of time trying to explain I hadn't meant to say what it was people thought I was saying.''


Purdy's future includes a contract withh Yale University Press for a a book about property theory and a research fellowship next year at Harvard, according to the Post.

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