Man with a Seagull on His Head - Harriet Paige

Staff Pick

It’s a rare novel that reminds you of one by Virginia Woolf and doesn’t fall short in the comparison. Immediately engaging, Paige’s insightful prose grows more lustrous with each rereading. The proprietor of a small shop is “a strange creature, a puppet, brought to life by the short discreet ring of the bell as the door opened.” And he’s “not just small but scaled down in some peculiar way.” You don’t merely see Paige’s characters, you understand them in a flash. When a newly-wed notes “the first solitary moments of married life,” she foretells the long passionless union ahead of her. Similarly, an artist’s studio “had the feel of a painting itself…even the sky outside the window…seemed still wet,” and—in a sentence that could have come from Mrs. Dalloway—after dropping her daughter off there, a mother thinks how “something always happened between going in and coming out… a waking up, an arrival of life.” The novel centers on Ray Eccles, a loner who “preferred to be ignored and usually was” until he’s struck on the head by a seagull and transformed, like an Oliver Sacks  case, into a compulsive artist. It’s fitting that this forgettable photocopy specialist becomes an artist who paints the same scene over and over—the woman he was looking at when struck—and that he’s unable to forget anything from that revelatory moment. He’s helpless to move on, even as the accident changes his life radically, making him a pre-eminent  Outsider Artist—until another hit on the head abruptly breaks the spell, dramatizing “the truth: that all came to nothing in the end.” Perhaps so, but the visions of the beautiful persist, and repeated images of flames—from the image of a fire “rolling on the water as if the sun had fallen”  to a man’s cremation to people “burning” to have children or create—make ordinary life seem perpetually on the edge of epiphany.

Man with a Seagull on His Head Cover Image
$14.95
ISBN: 9781771962391
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Biblioasis - October 23rd, 2018

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