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About this product
- SynopsisABOUTBOOK: My name is Fabian Vas. I live in Witless Bay, Newfoundland. You would not have beard of me. Obscurity is not necessarily failure, though; I am a bird artist, and have more or less made a living at it. Yet I murdered the lighthouse keeper, Botho August, and that is an equal part of how I think of myself." With its first paragraph, The Bird Artist announces its central themes. Set in a tiny coastal town, The Bird Artist addresses universal concerns: the safety of the known versus the attraction of the unknown, the redemptive potential of creative expression, and the transfiguring -- perhaps damaging -- power of the human heart. In developing these themes, Norman's prose reflects the unique landscape of Witless Bay: spare and beautiful, with stark emotion jutting out like cliffs above the sea. This guide was designed to illuminate your exploration of Norman's landscape, and we hope that it allows you to venture out into further discussion and study of this remarkable novel. DISCUSSIONQUES: Q>Toward the end of The Bird Artist Fabian paints a mural on the church wall depicting not only the physical aspects of Witless Bay, but also representations of its residents and recent events. How is Fabian's narration of his story similar to the mural he paints? Q>Howard Norman spent time in an Inuit whale-hunting community in Greenland. The Bird Artist opens with the following epigraph: "Suddenly, with extreme violence, he felt himself seized by the desire to be, rain or no rain, at any price, in the midst of the valleys: alone" (Giorgio Bassani, The Heron). What role does the theme of isolation, both geographic and emotional, play in Norman's novel? Q>Howard Norman has said that he originally wrote The Bird Artist because of Margaret Handle -- that "she puppeteers many things in the book." He also "tried to develop landscape as a character." What do Margaret and the landscape of Witless Bay have in common, and how do they shape and affect the book's events? Q>The final chapter of The Bird Artist comments on the etiquette of correspondence: "A man sends a letter, a man expects a reply." This chapter also contains a lengthy letter from Orkney to Fabian. What role do letters, and mail, play in the book? Which characters write letters, and which do not? What purpose (purposes) does writing play in this narrative? Q>On page 163, Margaret remembers a song her mother sang: "There's no love/true as the love/that dies untold," and tells Fabian that "It means, once a third person -- outside the couple in love -- knows a bout the love, it's diminished somehow." How does her interpretation relate to the novel's events? Could the song have a different meaning? Q>Some critics found mythic qualities in The Bird Artist. If a myth is "traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon," what does Fabian's story explain or unfold? How does it pertain to the world beyond Witless Bay? Q>At his trial, Fabian recalls, "I saw Bevel Cabot, Miriam Auster, Giles La Cotte, Ruth Henley, Olive Perrault. Toward the back were Elmer Wyatt, Peter Kieley, Patrick Flood holding his son Colin, Seamus Doyle." How does the community play a role in Fabian's crime and punishment? Although we never "meet" these characters, what is their significance here? What other writers have used a similar device to convey a group's identity and role? Q>In saving Alaric's life, Enoch warns her against straying too far away from her known village. And yet, the novel also presents the unknown, Halifax, for example, as an exciting place of opportunity. Which view does the book, as a whole, support? Safety or limitlessness? The comfort of the familiar lighthouse or the opportunity of the vast ocean? Q>Norman's protagonists, at various points in the book, commit murder and adultery, lie and steal. Does The Bird Artist condone, or even admire, such behavior? What,Howard Norman'sThe Bird Artist, the first book of his Canadian trilogy, begins in 1911. Its narrator, Fabian Vas is a bird artist: He draws and paints the birds of Witless Bay, his remote Newfoundland coastal village home. In the first paragraph of his tale Fabian reveals that he has murdered the village lighthouse keeper, Botho August. Later, he confesses who and what drove him to his crime--a measured, profoundly engrossing story of passion, betrayal, guilt, and redemption between men and women.
- AuthorHoward Norman
- Number Of Pages304 pages
- Edition DescriptionRevised
- Publication Date1995-03-15
- Publication Year1995
- Edition Number7
- Weight9.9 Oz
- Height0.8 In.
- Width5.6 In.
- Length8.3 In.
- LC Classification NumberPR9199.3.N564B57
- Dewey Decimal813/.54
- Dewey Edition20
- Reviews"A classic story . . . All that is splendid and spectacular in the book is simply light, magically employed to seek out what is real." --Richard Eder, The Los Angeles Times Book Review "Bewitching . . . glows like a night light in the reader's mind." --Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times "Completely original and compelling . . . written with great intelligence, wit and clarity." --Anne Whitehouse, The Boston Sunday Globe "[The Bird Artist] combines colorful backwoods eccentrics and gothic melodrama that strongly resembles the work of film director David Lynch." --Edward B. St. John, Library Journal,Bewitching . . . glows like a night light in the reader's mind.,Completely original and compelling . . . written with great intelligence, wit and clarity.,[ The Bird Artist ] combines colorful backwoods eccentrics and gothic melodrama that strongly resembles the work of film director David Lynch.
Most relevant reviews
- lpb123run04 Mar, 2007by
The Bird Artist
I bought this book for my book club. I only read about 60-70 pages and stopped because it was so weird! Something about a man of apparent weak character who lets other people run his life . . . he kills the lighthouse keeper and obsessively draws pictures of birds. NOT my cup of tea at all! But a couple people in the book club liked it. I just wasn't one of them!
- mjeddry02 Mar, 2006by
A must read!
This is a beautiful story which takes place in eastern Canada is an oceanfront windswept setting. There is love, longing, and betrayal, but it is not a "chick book". Full of colorful character and highly recommended. The quality of writing will take you away....