The Big Why by Michael Winter Selected and Introduced by Patrick de Witt
A unique historical (and uniquely hysterical) novel based on a year in the life of the great American Artist and Illustrator Rockwell Kent. A year he spent trying to establish a home for himself and his young family in Newfoundland.
Michael Winter’s The Big Why takes the tradition of the historical novel and twists it into the cool, sinuous, entertaining shape we’ve all been waiting for. His characters are real and from the past, but the lives they live feel contemporary and emotionally modern.
Winter’s version of the American artist Rockwell Kent is an over aged, erotically fleckless Huck Finn ready to leave the superficial art world of New York and light out for the territory. Only he heads the wrong way: north and east to Brigus, Newfoundland, before and at the beginning of World War One. A socialist and a philanderer, certain in the greatness of his work, he is drawn north by a fascination for the rocky Atlantic coast and by the example of Brigus’s other well-known resident, fabled Arctic explorer Robert Bartlett. But once in Newfoundland, Kent discovers that notoriety is even easier to achieve in a small town than in New York. As events come to a head both internationally and domestically and the war begins, Kent becomes a polarizing figure in this intimate, impoverished community, where everyone knows everyone and any outsider is suspect, possibly even a German spy.
Writing in Kent’s voice, Michael Winter delivers a passionate, witty, and cerebral exploration of what makes exceptional individuals who they are–and why.
“Michael Winter’s The Big Why is a superb novel with grandeur of emotional depth. This is an important book nearly to the point of cruelty, wherein the struggle between an individual and his wife and the larger community remind us again of the immense value of literature.” – Jim Harrison
“A Bravely written novel that shatters the spine of historical fiction” –Michael Ondaatje
“[T]his is a highly entertaining and ultimately profound novel of a quixotic man who reveres nature’s awful beauty.”- Kirkus (starred review)
“[An] exceptionally fine novel … Winter brilliantly exposes his subject’s inner life while at the same time revealing Newfoundland and the inhabitants of Brigus to be just as idiosyncratic as the artist who is observing them.” –The Boston Globe
“Think Henry James filtered through James Ellroy.” –The Buffalo News
5.5” x 8.25”, $18.00
Paperback, 384 pages
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