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The Big Why: A Novel by Michael Winter

The Big Why: A Novel (2004)

by Michael Winter

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1023178,513 (3.39)11



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This book, "A Novel" by subtitle, is well worth reading, although I might call it an infuriatingly good novel. It played tricks on me. The story made me love the protagonist, then to hate his destructive ways, then to hate him, and finally to stand him, and ultimately to stand by him. I don't know if I liked all that so well, but the book has far more to offer than the story. The writing is sharp and evocative, the thinking is deep and nuanced, and subtle details yield far more than I could ever have hoped for. It kind of took my breath away. Plus you gotta love a book that uses "A Novel" as it's subtitle.

This is the second review on this page that will refuse to summarize "The Big Why." I look forward to reading what others say about this book and what it's about. Whether it's about love and being loved and loving. Whether it's about secret lives or public lives, or saying too much about oneself in a place where people are wordless or less word-full. Whether it's about art or industry. Whether it's about being oneself or how to be oneself, or, if one hasn't been oneself, then why? ( )
1 vote pdever | Jan 17, 2010 |
I will leave the summaries to others - and say simply: What a wonderful book! Not only is his depiction of Brigus, Newfoundland delightfully evocative and as colorful as it deserves, but Michael Winter's voice is like no other. In my opinion it's hard as hell to properly depict Newfoundland -- to balance the beauty, the humor, the hardscrabble life, the dangers of living off the North Atlantic sea and the strength, resourcefulness, and pain of its people. Winter makes it look easy. His originality and ability to dig deep into his characters' motivations (as well as their blind spots) is inspiring. If, like me, you agree with Chekhov that the job of the writer is not to provide answers, but to properly frame the question, then this book will delight you, for Winter has pulled it off flawlessly. And did I mention he's funny as hell? Well done, boy! ( )
1 vote Laurenbdavis | Jun 23, 2009 |
I didn't like Kent, I didn't like the random punctuation, and I wouldn't say I liked the book exactly but I did admire it. Winter is a talented writer and this book made me curious enough that I will probably check out more of his work. Full review: http://www.canadianauthors.net/w/winter_michael/big_why_the.php ( )
  ripleyy | Dec 16, 2007 |
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The Naked Man of Brigus

A man goes to sea here as one would depart from the earth for the moon or Jupiter. They are mapmakers. The largeness of the Newfounlander's field of labour is so apparent -- I've become more intimate with our little round earth since I've been here than in all my life before.

Rockwell Kent

Letter to Charles Daniel, 3 June 1914

For Hogarth, Jr
First words
I have been loved. I can say this. But back then, before it all went wrong, I did not know enough to consider the question. I had married a woman with one facial gesture. Kathleen Whiting. A kind smile. When we made love, that smile. I knew I was wrapped up with goodness -- if I kept close to this woman a good life would accrue.
That day will mark a precedent which brings no news of Rockwell Kent

- The New Yorker, 1937
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"In 1914, at the age of thirty and already a controversial fixture of the American art scene, painter and illustrator Rockwell Kent decides to escape the social world of New York City. He travels to Brigus, Newfoundland, to set up housekeeping, with his wife and three children to follow a few months later. A socialist and a philanderer, certain in the greatness of his work, Kent is drawn north by a fascination for the rocky Atlantic coast and by the example of Brigus's other well-known resident, 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." "Michael Winter's historical novel is a portrait of Kent's year in Newfoundland, told in the voice of the artist himself. 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."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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