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An amazement. . . a combination of flashback and interior monologue that Freud and Joyce would both be proud of. . . [Birdy] is a philosophical romance of the highest order. It gleams with remembered youth, and desire, and the emancipating dream. It is at home with the irrational. . . an enchanting book.
"I've become convinced the physical life we must live out is but ephemeral. It gives me much comfort and has allowed for new experiences of a spiritual nature I've never had before. " -William Wharton, from the Epilogue In August of 1988, heavy black smoke engulfed an Oregon highway, causing a massive 23-car pileup that claimed the lives of novelist William Wharton's 36-year-old daughter, her husband, and their two infant daughters. They'd been victims of field burning, a routine agricultural practice, and were burned alive in their van. How could such a thing happen? And how could a father come to terms with such a loss? Ever After, Wharton's first memoir, is his search for answers to these questions, written with the inspired simplicity that won him great acclaim for his novels.
The title brings to mind a luxury vessel on the most glamorous river in the world, but readers expecting to learn about the high life in France will be in for a surprise. In this charming memoir, painter and novelist Wharton (Birdy) instead gives us literally the nuts and bolts of building a houseboat, along with generous dollops of humor and local color. As a struggling artist in Paris with his schoolteacher wife and four children, Wharton decided to build his own boat after visiting that of an acquaintance in the mid-1970s. He recounts the family's adventures in making their dream come true. They gave up their Paris flat and moved onto the boat, which docked 12 miles downriver from Paris at Le Port Marly. There they spent the next 25 years adding the finishing touches. The most poignant moment comes at the wedding of oldest child, Kate, aboard ship. The author reminds us that she, her husband and their two children were to perish in 1988 in an Oregon fire, a tragedy he recounted in Ever After. Some readers might have preferred learning more about life aboard the boat than about the details of building it, but this work will satisfy Wharton devotees and Francophiles alike. (Jun. )
Set in the Ardennes Forest on Christmas Eve, 1944, A Midnight Clear is the story of Sergeant Will Knott and five other GIs ordered to establish an observation post in an abandoned chateau close to the German lines. Here they play at being soldiers in what seems to be complete isolation-until the Germans begin leaving signs of their presence.
During the Depression, a 10-year-old boy befriends a carnival stuntman and his lion cub and learns about the meaning of family, loyalty, love, and survival.
Know Scumbler in his poignant, hilarious life. Get mad at him and even cry with him. Here's Don Quixote, Santa Claus, and Faust rolled into one "thick shadow" of a man. A joyous sixty-year-old American street painter lives on the Left Bank in Paris, making a living by creating rentable apartments out of the most unlikely spaces. Mostly, however, he paints with utter delight in the creative act and discovers remarkable characters along his path: crafts-men, students, prostitutes, motorcyclists. He scumbles and fails. He digs twisting tunnels under Paris streets and builds nests: nature nests, rats' nests, birds' nests. He collects clocks and designs his own life from the "inside. " Wanting to be true beyond honesty, visible past seeing to being, Scumbler scrambles, tumbles, rumbles, rambles through the ecstatic pleasure of creation and the pangs of ordinary existence.
Author of such classic wartime novels as Birdy and A Midnight Clear, William Wharton was one of the most acclaimed writers of his generation. However, he was also a very private man--he wrote under a pseudonym and rarely gave interviews--so fans and critics could only speculate how much of his work was autobiographical and how much was fiction. Now, for the first time, we are able to read the authors own account of his experiences during World War II--events that went on to influence some of his greatest works. These are the tales that Wharton never wanted to tell his children. Together, they illuminate a deeply personal, transformative experience: of learning to kill, to "abandon my natural desire to live, survive, and to risk my life for reasons I often did not understand and sometimes did not accept. " Moving and insightful, Shrapnel is a powerful, timeless work from an acclaimed American master.
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