As you head for the beach this long weekend, consider the story of Ray Eccles, a city clerk “past the age when anything interesting was likely to happen to him,” who one day is struck on the head by a dying seagull and wakes up compelled to obsessively paint the last thing he saw before he was knocked out: an unknown woman on the beach. What happens next is anything but uninteresting: Ray’s paintings are discovered by husband-and-wife Outsider Art dealers and quickly take the art world by storm. Meanwhile Jennifer, his anonymous muse, ponders the surprising turns and odd connections that characterize a life.
No, I’m not knee-deep in Mai Tais: I’m summarizing the Harriet Paige’s debut novel, Man with a Seagull on His Head, which Kirkus Reviews calls “elegiac…emotionally precise…not only pleasing to the eye, but also profoundly engaging to the heart. A gentle fable about the mystery of artistic creativity.”
Bookseller blurbs, which we’ll be printing in finished copies of the book, have been rolling in. Are you a bookseller? Would you like to join our flock? Contact us for an ARC, or flap on over to our inboxes and tell us what you think.
Praise for Man with a Seagull on His Head
“The story is told in a slowly unfolding prose that I found to be lovely, quiet and quite beautiful. My copy has dog eared pages with underlined sentences such as “She’d sat in front of him for three weeks and he hadn’t seen her. How odd to discover one didn’t exist.” Another favorite: “…it was magic just to watch him when he did not know himself to be watched. One could love someone very easily that way.” I found myself slowly reading so that I wouldn’t miss any poetic descriptions of people and places. Admittedly, it’s a hard novel to pin down—is it a mystery? A family story? A story of mental illness and art? It’s unlike anything I’ve read, really, and I find it hard to describe and truly convey its beauty. I will recommend it to readers of literary fiction who aren’t in a hurry to barrel through a book, but who enjoy the slow unfolding of a lovely novel that leaves them thinking of the characters for days afterward.” —Sarah Letke, Redbery Books (Cable, WI)
“Man With a Seagull on His Head is an enthralling read unlike anything I have ever read. It makes you feel crazy, sane, upset, and euphoric. The story of Ray Eccles is a strange tale that provides inspiration can rise from the strangest of places. Harriet Paige is a remarkable writer with an amazing muse.” —Nick Buznaksi, Book Culture (New York, NY)
“Ray Eccles is leading a modest, unassuming existence when he’s abruptly struck on the head by a falling bird and finds his whole life changing course. Read Harriet Paige’s new novel and you may find yourself similarly affected. The opening of Man with a Seagull on His Head tempts you with its brisk prose and summery seaside setting to pick it up as a momentary diversion, but it quickly establishes powerful links among its many characters, connecting hearts and minds across distance, time, and cultural barriers. By the end it will have taken them, and you, much further than you’d have ever expected.” —James Crossley, Island Books (Mercer Island, WA)
“Sometimes the strange thoughts that compose a novel are curious; sometimes they are loveable. This is a wonderful mixture of both. As the Xerox clerk Ray Eccles becomes an Outsider Artist from his works of “She,” the woman who witnessed a seagull falling from the sky and causing a life-changing injury, you’re never quite sure where it’s going. Endearing in an unobtrusive observational perspective, you want to extend a hand and wish the characters well. A fine read. Refreshingly recommend.” —Todd Miller, Arcadia Books (Spring Green, WI)
“Harriet Paige has written a memorable piece of fiction that manages to subvert the idea of what defines a muse – and the symbiotic relationship the inevitably blooms from the act. The books explores the somewhat psychotic lengths inspiration can take someone paired with the exploitative facets of the art world – and it’s rendered with such a fantastic combination of distance and intimacy. The world could maybe be made better if more seagulls fell on our heads.” —Rebecca George, Volumes Bookcafe (Chicago, IL)