This brief, captivating novel introduces the fascinating world of outsider art through steady pacing and nuanced characters. What drives Ray Eccles to obsessively paint the same woman in any available medium, from ballpoint pen to bodily fluids? Will his unwitting muse reveal her identity to an art world intrigued by mystery? How does a famous stranger's singular focus impact the object of his obsession?— From Emily
“Ray Eccles, a nonentity, goes for a walk on his 40th birthday. He seems almost reassured by the thought that he is past the age when something interesting is likely to happen to him. He assumes he is all alone on a deserted beach, but then, in quick succession, a woman appears, they lock eyes, and Ray is knocked cold by a seagull plummeting from the sky. Is it Ray’s salvation or doom? Is Ray’s ensuing story, told in Harriet Paige’s gem-like prose, the stuff of tragedy or farce? Or are we all Ray, placid and longing, dreaming of rising into the sky?”
— Ezra Goldstein, Community Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY
There is nothing interesting about Ray Eccles. He knows it himself. On the morning of his fortieth birthday, he goes for a walk because he's just learned of a dormant Second World War explosive offshore, and he's the kind of man who thinks a bomb might be good company. As he gazes at the sea, a woman in the distance suddenly turns to face him--and a dying seagull falls from the sky, knocking him unconscious.
When Ray wakes up, he's inexplicably compelled to paint the woman's image, obsessively and repeatedly: initially on any paper he can find in his house, and thereafter on the walls, using any materials that come to hand, including food and bodily fluids. Discovered by a power couple of Outsider Art, he becomes one of the most celebrated artists of the century, and soon even small-town newspapers are covering his work--which is how Jennifer, the woman on the beach, discovers she's the subject of the paintings that have set the world on fire, leading her to wonder if a man she's never met is the only person who has ever really seen her.
Man with a Seagull on His Head is a novel about the impossibility of ever really knowing anyone, and the electric charge that comes from real if unexpected connection. Beautiful, lyrical, and strangely moving, it heralds a wonderful and original new voice.