Howard Norman's The 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.
- National Book Awards
Set in Newfoundland, Norman's novel about a young man who confesses to the murder of the village lighthouse keeper, and whose gift for drawing birds becomes both his physical and his emotional release, was a 1994 National Book Award finalist. (Apr.) -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Farrar, Straus and Giroux
March 15, 1995
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Excerpt from The Bird Artist by Howard Norman
My name is Fabian Vas. I live in Witless Bay, Newfoundland. You would not have heard 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.
I discovered my gift for drawing and painting birds early on. I should better say that my mother saw that someone had filled in the margins of my third-form primer with the sketches of wings, talons, and heads of local birds. "I thought this primer was brand-new," she said. "But it's full of these bird drawings. Well, somebody has talent." After a night's sleep she realized that the pencil work was mine and was what I had been concentrating on during my school lessons. Actually she seemed quite pleased, and at breakfast the following morning said, "Awfully nice to learn something so unmistakable about one's offspring." She tore out a page full of heads of gulls and ospreys, wrote, "October 28, 1900," on it, and nailed it to the kitchen door.