Howard, Norman.

ISBN 10: 0374216495 / ISBN 13: 9780374216498
Published by New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998. dj, 1998
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SIGNED hardcover first edition - First printing. Novel set in Nova Scotia in 1938 on the eve of World War II. SIGNED on the title page. 310 pp. Fine in a very near fine dust jacket. (as new.). Bookseller Inventory # 37094

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Bibliographic Details


Publisher: New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998. dj

Publication Date: 1998

Binding: Hardcover

Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title


The author of The Bird Artist, a finalist for the National Book Award, explores the darkening world of Europe in the 1930s through the story of a Jewish woman who comes under the spell of an unusual painting.


On September 5, 1938, DeFoe Russet helps hang a new show at a tiny Nova Scotia museum. He doesn't even pay much attention to the eight new paintings from Holland; he'll have time enough to take them in later on. After all, the buttoned-down 25-year-old is one of two people at Halifax's Glace Museum paid to watch out for the art, to stop people from getting too close to it. But DeFoe also knows that "as a guard you had emotions. You got to know paintings better than you got to know the people in your life. Speaking for myself."

The other guard--and the man who raised him after his parents died in a zeppelin crash when he was 9--is his Uncle Edward. Edward is certainly not the steadiest fellow employee or familial influence. He devotes his nights to drinking, poker, and charming women at the Lord Nelson, the hotel where both men live, and his days to hangovers, somnolence, and generally harassing museumgoers. DeFoe, at least, is a model employee. Yet his personal life cannot be quite so regulated, and for the last two years he has been frustrated in his relationship with a caretaker at the local Jewish cemetery. He seems to expend most of his energy anticipating Imogen Linny's moods, assessing the power of her headaches, and banging his head against her nocturnal mixed messages and philosophizing. As the novel progresses, Imogen also grows increasingly obsessed with one of the newly arrived paintings, Jewess on a Street in Amsterdam.

Soon, DeFoe puts his career in jeopardy for Imogen, stealing the picture for her--though this is only one of the mysteries at the heart of Howard Norman's strange and startling third novel, The Museum Guard. Through DeFoe's eyes, we, too, begin to understand the allure of the painting, in which a woman pushes a bicycle and holds a loaf of bread, the shop window behind her filled with toothbrushes. "The toothbrushes made me laugh. They quickly put me in a good mood," he recounts. "But then I looked close up at the Jewess's face; I was sunk from that mood in a second. Because it struck me as a face of desperate sadness. Those are my own words. I stood as close to the painting as I could without touching it. Me--a guard. I reached out then and touched the woman's face. And I did not flinch back my hand or warn myself."

Howard Norman's protagonist would probably be able to pull himself back; this is a man who calms himself down by ironing endless white shirts. And he fully intends to keep the same job for the next 30 years. But those around him lack his instinct for order and seem to be pushing him toward the grand, self-destructive gesture. News of Hitler's advances on Europe also make him realize "how small Halifax had become." Imogen, too, feels her life a confinement, but her reaction is more extreme. She literally wills herself to become the woman in the painting. In one bizarre scene--and Norman has a knack for turning the extreme into the everyday--DeFoe finds her filling in for the usual museum guide. Speaking in an unconvincing Dutch accent and dressed as the Jewess, Imogen tells a group of increasingly puzzled women her version of events. "While he painted me, we fell in love. Just weeks before, with my parents' death, I had become estranged from my very soul. My marriage to Joop Heijman helped me to reconcile. And now you know my deepest secrets." Edward's assessment is as wry as ever, and spot-on: "Life in Halifax used to be so simple, didn't it, DeFoe?"

As Imogen's identification grows, she is resolved to go to Amsterdam and "reunite" with the painter. Howard Norman writes with such persuasive oddity that it's no surprise when those closely allied to the Glace Museum find themselves moving this futile, intrusive, and dangerous plan along. The Museum Guard is an unsettling examination of a group of people (with very odd names) who let themselves get too close to art--and perhaps to life. --Kerry Fried

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Store Description - the name used by Volk and Iiams, Booksellers- specializes in first editions of twentieth century literature, with an emphasis on women authors, African American, Native American and Latin American authors - plus mystery & detective fiction, science fiction & fantasy, poetry and children's & illustrated books. We try to offer many uncommon books, and have a large selection of first books, and books by authors who are less frequently collected. Of the approximately 50,000 volumes in stock, the majority are hardcover first editions, although we also stock vintage science fiction paperbacks as well as sf digests and pulps. We also have a large selection of books signed by the author and uncorrected proof copies. Less than 50% of our stock is catalogued, so please inquire if you are searching for specific titles. Selling books by mail order and on the internet since 1993. We have a large booth dedicated to books (called Books Upstairs) at the Antiques Upstairs Mall, 5 Main Street, Jackson, CA. (open every day from 10-5) The emphasis there is on Western Americana, children¿s books and inexpensive reading copies. In 1998 we relocated our main business from Sacramento to the Sierra foothills of Amador County, about 35 miles east of downtown Sacramento and between Ione & Sutter Creek. There, on 10 acres of rolling oak-covered hills, we built a ¿bookhouse¿ for our books. When we are there, we welcome visitors by appointment (call 209-274-6960 or, in the US only, toll free at 1-877-bookfev or contact us by email Our web page is Traditional bookseller grading used - fine is our highest grade (an "A"), very good is above average (a "B), good is average (a "C"). All significant flaws are described; dust jackets are protected by archival covers, and books are packed carefully for shipping. We welcome questions by email or phone.

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Terms of Sale: is a partnership between Christine Volk and Eugene Iiams, Booksellers. Our mailing address is PO Box 696, Ione CA 95640 USA. Our store is located at 5 Main Street, Jackson, CA 95642 USA. Email: Phone: 209-274-6960. We accept Mastercard, Visa AMEX, Discover, checks or Paypal, whichever is most convenient for customers. Please contact us if you have any questions, or want to confirm availability. All dustjackets are in archival mylar covers, and books are packed ...

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