I want to like The Bird Artist (Howard Norman), and, truly, it has many good qualities. It is cleanly and, perhaps, even sparingly (as the back cover claims) written. It’s also funny in a wonderfully deadpan way—all about setting up a situation which leads to seemingly straight lines that nevertheless had me laughing out loud more than once. Finally, the novel reaches for profound statements of human desire and pain and joy and love. That it doesn’t quite make it there almost feels not its fault. Most books fail to be profound. In this case, it’s too cute and too clever. The ending ties all the strings too neatly. And, for all the grim darkness in its sensibility, the book is too light, too easy. It would make a fine Hollywood movie staring a young Kevin Spacey (or a shorter Daniel Day Lewis) and Lori Singer, with Nicole Kidman as the mother.
All in all, a fine book, but I won’t see the movie.