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Inspired Wordsmith
Stephanie
Posts: 2,613
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Early Chapters Discussion: First Impressions

What are your first impressions of The Shadow Catcher? What do you think of the narrator's idea of the sound my country makes? Is it a train whistle for you, also?

How do you feel about the narrator? Do you think you'll have a difficult time separating her from the author? Is that necessary?

This section is appropriate for those who have just begun the novel. Please be mindful of spoilers.
Stephanie
Contributor
LetitiaP
Posts: 13
Registered: ‎03-13-2007
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: First Impressions

I've just started reading, but must say that I was immediately taken with this passage in the first chapter that relays a fascinating notion about perspective:

"Maybe we are built to reconnoiter from above, survey the Earth from heaven, dream of flying. Maybe it's the angel in us."

What a simply beautiful way to suppose that, in a way, all of us are artists -- looking at the world around us from above; if we can't fly, we can dream of flying -- much like artists (or photographers, more specifically) must do when they convey their own visions.

The idea of observation -- watching, listening, interpreting -- runs throughout this chapter, and I think it's an interesting and effective way to introduce our Narrator. We know right away that we'll be seeing things from her unique vantage point -- flying "with" her on a tour of what's to come in the novel.

"The sound my country makes" -- what a wonderful line! Be it a whistle, a breeze, or crashing waves -- I'll be everyone has their own interpretation of this concept, and it likely changes over time...

The first chapter certainly hooked me -- can't wait to read on!

LetitiaP

Frequent Contributor
x-tempo
Posts: 102
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: First Impressions

The first section marks the beginning of a voyage. It's reminiscent of the map-in-the-London-shop-window which begins Heart of Darkness except that the shop in this case, although it smells of fry-up and vinegar, is the Queen's art gallery. The Victoria train station is important because we're travelling back to the Victorian era when the railroad spread throughout the colonies. The map is ochre which the narrator identifies as the color of southern California sandstone, which to me, sounds like a designer paint color, like Tuscan Sun.

I think of the opening section as an improvisation. The aerial view of the Italian coastal town, Columbus "flying" to America, the suggestion of Carlos-Cataneda-like astral projection or dream flying, the litany of Indian tribes, and so on.

Edward S. Curtis's birth roughly coincides with the opening of the transcontinental railroad, the signing of an important treaty between the Sioux and the War Department which was soon broken by the government, and the end of slavery, the "peculiar institution" which is mentioned twice in this section.

In this context I have no trouble imagining the train whistle as the sound the country makes.

Also, a narrator with the author's name is not completely unusual to most readers and neither is an inner novel with the same title as the novel itself. One example I can think of is Orhan Pamuk's "Snow" which has a narrator named Orhan who writes a book of poems called "Snow."

I'm enjoying the novel. I've read about 100 pages.

PS I found another book about Curtis in the juvenile section of the library, "Shadow Catcher: The Life and Work of Edward S. Curtis" by Laurie Lawlor. It contains more photos of his work and the members of the Curtis family.
Inspired Wordsmith
Stephanie
Posts: 2,613
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: First Impressions

Letitia,

What made me pause were the comments about Da Vinci's aerial views- that he could not have known, yet did.

I thought about my love of maps and how I've always wanted an Old World map (tapestry, I think) to hang above my couch - and I think Marianne finally got me to understand why I want that. --Thanks, Marianne.
Stephanie
Inspired Wordsmith
Stephanie
Posts: 2,613
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: First Impressions

X-Tempo,

If you want to see tons of Curtis' photos, just Google his name under their "images" section. Incredible. Knowing what I know about him and his photos after reading this novel, I'm looking at them in a completely different way.
Stephanie
Author
MWiggins
Posts: 4
Registered: ‎07-17-2007
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: First Impressions

Thanks, everyone, for your responses to the first chapter. Since EVIDENCE OF THINGS UNSEEN, I've created a "signature" in these first chapters, trying to strike a note that reverberates through the entire novel. All the themes and echoes begin here, I hope: and when you finish the last page, I hope you'll return to this first chapter, a tone poem, and hear the music it establishes, all over again.
Marianne


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Inspired Wordsmith
Stephanie
Posts: 2,613
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: First Impressions

Marianne,

Now that you've put it into words for me, that is exactly what I found - that tone, throughout.

I wondered about how much of the story was fact, and how much was fiction. Can you enlighten us?

Thanks-
Stephanie
Author
MWiggins
Posts: 4
Registered: ‎07-17-2007
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: First Impressions

Dear Stephanie,

Well, it IS a novel (says so right on the cover....) This is my 8th (NOVEL, that is), and a departure for me, since Edward is not a creation of my imagination, but a vibrant real historical figure. The "Marianne" character in the novel struggles with this, to the extent that she goes to visit Edward's grave (which is something that I actually did.) (See the picture in the bokk...) I was very committed to being diligent about the facts of Edward's life. However, since most of the scenes about him are told through Clara's eyes, and since there is very little historical material about Clara, I was able to "novelize" much more about her. And, I hope, raise an awareness about these "disappeared" figures in history.

Marianne


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Inspired Wordsmith
Stephanie
Posts: 2,613
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: First Impressions

Marianne,

I admit- you definitely raised my awareness! I knew the photographs, certainly, but I've always assumed they'd been taken much earlier, as did the movie people in your novel. It was stunning to find out that cars had been cropped out of them.

I very much enjoyed Clara's character, and I figured the events surrounding her death were factual. I like to think of her as you portrayed her - as Edward's initial inspiration for his art.

Why did you give your narrator your name? The effect on the novel was superb, but it's always interesting to know why a writer makes the choices she does.
Stephanie
Author
MWiggins
Posts: 4
Registered: ‎07-17-2007
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: First Impressions

Dear Stephanie,

I was beginning to be stymied by all the dead ends I kept finding, researching Clara Philips Curtis. I went searching for her place of burial for more than a year, diggins through all the surrounding county archives around Seattle. Finally i stumbled on the fact that she had drowned in a boating accident in Puget Sound. From that single fact, I invented the circumstances...and "shadowed" the event with the earlier scene in the bathtub.

As for using a character named "Marianne Wiggins", this was a big risk for me. as I've never used my own life as material. But I knew that I needed to have a 21st century voice from someone, if I was going to explore all the modern aspects of photography that I do. Where the idea came from, exactly, I can't say...but it seemed to make sense when it finally arrived, rather late in the process.

Marianne


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Inspired Wordsmith
Stephanie
Posts: 2,613
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: First Impressions

Marianne,

It made sense to me, too, and I loved the effect your use of your name had on the parallel storyline. It seemed very "true" that we would have the narrator writing about her discoveries at the same time we were hearing the Curtis story.

I really loved how the ending tied together as well, but Early Chapters Discussion is hardly the place for that!
Stephanie
Author
MWiggins
Posts: 4
Registered: ‎07-17-2007
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: First Impressions

Everyone,

We were late getting this site up and running for the month of July, owing to the abbreviated 4th of July week. Originally, B&N had designated June for the discussion, but then had to change the month to July, after I had already made my summer plans. They were kind enough to accept the fact that I'd be going to France (a tiny village in Provence) and probably into cyper-invisibility for the later part of the month. Everyone in this discussion group seems to be reluctant to jump in 9except Stephanie), although we have a lot of "views". I'm sorry to leave at the juncture, just when we might start to be building momentum. I've asked B&N if they will keep the site up through the first week in August so I can reply (later; but better.) Stephanie, I'll count on you to keep the interest up, and I pledge to check in, if possible (doubtful), but definitely tie up loose threads when I'm back in the USA August 8. Until then, thank you, all.
Marianne


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Inspired Wordsmith
Stephanie
Posts: 2,613
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: First Impressions

Marianne,

I hope you enjoy your travels. We will certainly continue. Thank you for your time and your candor. It's been wonderful getting your perspective on the novel.
Stephanie
BN Editor
Bill_T
Posts: 366
Registered: ‎03-20-2007
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: First Impressions

We'll definitely still be here when you return, Marianne!



MWiggins wrote:
Everyone,

We were late getting this site up and running for the month of July, owing to the abbreviated 4th of July week. Originally, B&N had designated June for the discussion, but then had to change the month to July, after I had already made my summer plans. They were kind enough to accept the fact that I'd be going to France (a tiny village in Provence) and probably into cyper-invisibility for the later part of the month. Everyone in this discussion group seems to be reluctant to jump in 9except Stephanie), although we have a lot of "views". I'm sorry to leave at the juncture, just when we might start to be building momentum. I've asked B&N if they will keep the site up through the first week in August so I can reply (later; but better.) Stephanie, I'll count on you to keep the interest up, and I pledge to check in, if possible (doubtful), but definitely tie up loose threads when I'm back in the USA August 8. Until then, thank you, all.
Marianne


New User
Allroy
Posts: 1
Registered: ‎02-22-2008
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Re: Early Chapters Discussion: First Impressions

I am a bit anxious for this novel to get going.  I have only read up to page 85, but I am really wanting the main character and her brother (awesome character) to get to Seattle.  A bit slow at times, with the family descriptions, but I was able to relate to everything the LA opening talked about. 
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