Jamie Is My Heart’s Desire

Alfred Chester’s masterpiece, The Exquisite Corpse, was one of the literary sensations of the 1960s, a surreal, homoerotic phantasmagoria that became a cult classic. It was preceded by this, his only other novel, a work more straitlaced in literary form but just as shockingly original in content. It tells the story of a cynical Brooklyn undertaker, Harry, and the object of his affection, a beautiful and deceased young man named Jamie. But does Jamie really exist, or is he merely Harry’s fantasy, the illusion that makes his life endurable? Harry’s friends are divided on this matter, and Chester leaves it to his readers to decide. We are proud to republish this upside-down take on the transforming powers of love, out of print since the late 1950s.

Surreal and unflinchingly true to life, at once light, witty and imbued with heavy existential angst. . . Sometimes brutal and hilariously waspish, but always humane.
Sam Jordison, Guardian Unlimited (UK)

This title is now available as an eBook through Google Play.

Alfred Chester was, in the words of Gore Vidal, “a glorious writer, tough as nails.” His works include The Exquisite Corpse (Black Sparrow Books, 2004), Head of a Sad Angel (stories, 1990), and Looking for Genet (essays, 1992). Born in Brooklyn in 1928, he died in Tel Aviv in 1971.

Harriet Sohmers Zwerling is an American writer and artist’s model. She lived in Paris in the 1950s as part of the bohemian expatriate scene centered on James Baldwin, with whom she shared space in a literary magazine called New Story.

She translated a novel by the Marquis de Sade for Maurice Girodias’ Olympia Press and worked for the International Herald Tribune. In 1959, she moved to New York City and was a part of the literary scene there, publishing stories, (one in the anthology The Bold New Women issued by Fawcett), co-editing the Provincetown Review and working as an artist’s model for some of New York’s most important painters. She was bisexual and had a few love relationships with women, including María Irene Fornés from 1954 to 1957, and then Susan Sontag until 1958.[2]

In 1963, she married merchant sailor and bohemian Louis Zwerling and had a son, the musician Milo Z. She taught school in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for 28 years. In 2003 a collection of her writings, Notes of a Nude Model & Other Pieces was published. She appears in the documentary Still Doing It about the sex lives of older women. Just out from Spuyten Duyvil publishers her new book, ABROAD, an expatriate’s diaries, 1950-1959, is based on her actual diaries from that period when she lived in Paris. She also appears in the documentary “Regarding Susan Sontag”, which was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2014.