Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

The Museum Guard: A Novel Paperback – September 24, 1999


See all 15 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Paperback, September 24, 1999
$35.89 $0.01
Unknown Binding
"Please retry"
$46.00

NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

Image
Looking for the Audiobook Edition?
Tell us that you'd like this title to be produced as an audiobook, and we'll alert our colleagues at Audible.com. If you are the author or rights holder, let Audible help you produce the audiobook: Learn more at ACX.com.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1st edition (September 24, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312204272
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312204273
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,121,880 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

On September 5, 1938, DeFoe Russet helps hang a new show at a tiny Nova Scotia museum. He doesn't even pay much attention to the eight new paintings from Holland; he'll have time enough to take them in later on. After all, the buttoned-down 25-year-old is one of two people at Halifax's Glace Museum paid to watch out for the art, to stop people from getting too close to it. But DeFoe also knows that "as a guard you had emotions. You got to know paintings better than you got to know the people in your life. Speaking for myself."

The other guard--and the man who raised him after his parents died in a zeppelin crash when he was 9--is his Uncle Edward. Edward is certainly not the steadiest fellow employee or familial influence. He devotes his nights to drinking, poker, and charming women at the Lord Nelson, the hotel where both men live, and his days to hangovers, somnolence, and generally harassing museumgoers. DeFoe, at least, is a model employee. Yet his personal life cannot be quite so regulated, and for the last two years he has been frustrated in his relationship with a caretaker at the local Jewish cemetery. He seems to expend most of his energy anticipating Imogen Linny's moods, assessing the power of her headaches, and banging his head against her nocturnal mixed messages and philosophizing. As the novel progresses, Imogen also grows increasingly obsessed with one of the newly arrived paintings, Jewess on a Street in Amsterdam.

Soon, DeFoe puts his career in jeopardy for Imogen, stealing the picture for her--though this is only one of the mysteries at the heart of Howard Norman's strange and startling third novel, The Museum Guard. Through DeFoe's eyes, we, too, begin to understand the allure of the painting, in which a woman pushes a bicycle and holds a loaf of bread, the shop window behind her filled with toothbrushes. "The toothbrushes made me laugh. They quickly put me in a good mood," he recounts. "But then I looked close up at the Jewess's face; I was sunk from that mood in a second. Because it struck me as a face of desperate sadness. Those are my own words. I stood as close to the painting as I could without touching it. Me--a guard. I reached out then and touched the woman's face. And I did not flinch back my hand or warn myself."

Howard Norman's protagonist would probably be able to pull himself back; this is a man who calms himself down by ironing endless white shirts. And he fully intends to keep the same job for the next 30 years. But those around him lack his instinct for order and seem to be pushing him toward the grand, self-destructive gesture. News of Hitler's advances on Europe also make him realize "how small Halifax had become." Imogen, too, feels her life a confinement, but her reaction is more extreme. She literally wills herself to become the woman in the painting. In one bizarre scene--and Norman has a knack for turning the extreme into the everyday--DeFoe finds her filling in for the usual museum guide. Speaking in an unconvincing Dutch accent and dressed as the Jewess, Imogen tells a group of increasingly puzzled women her version of events. "While he painted me, we fell in love. Just weeks before, with my parents' death, I had become estranged from my very soul. My marriage to Joop Heijman helped me to reconcile. And now you know my deepest secrets." Edward's assessment is as wry as ever, and spot-on: "Life in Halifax used to be so simple, didn't it, DeFoe?"

As Imogen's identification grows, she is resolved to go to Amsterdam and "reunite" with the painter. Howard Norman writes with such persuasive oddity that it's no surprise when those closely allied to the Glace Museum find themselves moving this futile, intrusive, and dangerous plan along. The Museum Guard is an unsettling examination of a group of people (with very odd names) who let themselves get too close to art--and perhaps to life. --Kerry Fried --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The worlds of Norman's novels (The Northern Lights; The Bird Artist) are always slightly askew. Like trompe l'oeil paintings, they contain a veil of mystery spread over realistic settings. DeFoe Russet, like most of Norman's other protagonists, is a minimally educated man of simple ambitions, limited horizons and little self-knowledge. An orphan whose parents died in a dirigible crash when he was eight, DeFoe is raised in a Halifax hotel by his incorrigibly alcoholic and amorous Uncle Edward, a guard in the town's art museum. High-school dropout DeFoe becomes a guard there, too, and he goes stoically through his days caring for his perennially derelict and self-destructive uncle. DeFoe also tries to nourish his failing relationship with Imogen Linny, the caretaker at the Jewish cemetery, whose debilitating headaches have increased since she's become obsessed with a painting on loan to the museum. Imogen is convinced that she is the figure in the painting, titled Jewess on a Street in Amsterdam, and is determined to travel to that city to play out the drama of "her soul's estrangement and reconciliation." But the year is 1938 and Hitler is on the march. Norman again creates eccentric characters whose oddities seem quite natural to others in their community. But the antic charm and mordant humor of his earlier work is somewhat lacking here, and the reader is not so willing to suspend disbelief. Despite a histrionic denouement, the narrative feels muted, and Imogen, in particular, never earns our sympathy. Yet in the end, Norman's message about the disparity between the world of art, which can be captured and controlled, and the real world, with its emotional chaos and physical danger, carries a haunting intensity.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

HOWARD NORMAN is a three-time winner of National Endowment for the Arts fellowships and a winner of the Lannan Award for fiction. His 1987 novel, The Northern Lights, was nominated for a National Book Award, as was his 1994 novel The Bird Artist. He is also author of the novels The Museum Guard, The Haunting of L, and Devotion. His books have been translated into twelve languages. Norman teaches in the MFA program at the University of Maryland. He lives in Washington, D.C., and Vermont with his wife and daughter.

Customer Reviews

The rewards from this reading linger.
"psiklopz"
The book started off well enough, though very quickly one could see the wheels turning to support what seemed some rather shallow plot devices.
Full-Track Productions
Norman manages to write a novel that is both shocking and humorous, wise and witty.
Rick Hunter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Rick Hunter on December 13, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Howard Norman's The Museum Guard tells the relationship between DeFoe, a young museum guard in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Imogen, keeper of the Jewish cemetery who first becomes enraptured by and then literally becomes Jewess on a Street in Amsterdam, the subject of a painting on exhibit. As with Norman's earlier The Bird Artist, this is very much a novel of place and character. Particular to this novel, however, is its setting in history - 1938, a time of Nazi fanaticism and anti-Semitism. It is this context which makes Imogen's "madness" particularly horrifying, because in "becoming" the Jewess in the painting she travels to Amsterdam when Nazi overrun appeared imminent. Norman manages to write a novel that is both shocking and humorous, wise and witty. His use of language, also, is a marvel.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kimberly Rhodes on January 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
How many times have you encountered a painting that you wanted to inhabit? Howard Norman portrays the dark side of this fantasy in this reticent novel that interweaves art, World War II history and psychology through the eyes of a guard at a provincial Canadian art museum. Although it is difficult to identify or sympathize with the characters in this novel, the author's unusual choice of narrator (most novelists seem to choose artists or art historians as protagonists in their works about art--to place a museum guard at the center is to champion the periphery), questioning of the hows and whys of human connections with art, insistence on the ways that art exists within rather than outside of history and great intelligence make this a provocative and worthy read.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Mullin on August 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
I like the writing style of Howard Norman, whose lean, understated prose made The Bird Artist a unique and noteworthy novel. He has struck again in The Museum Guard, and for fans of his earlier work there will be plenty here to like as well. Narrator DeFoe Russet is a museum guard in Halifax, where he lives in a hotel with his Uncle Edward after his parents' death in a zeppelin accident. The narrator's depiction of that tragic incident, and especially the memory of the young narrator as he sat ironing shirts with his uncle's girlfriend to pass the time until his family returned, was a truly memorable and striking scene. DeFoe is painfully serious in his work as a guard at the local art museum, and his wry observations about the new exhibits at the museum, as well as his keen observation of the people who come to marvel at the paintings, suits Norman's understated narrative style well.
At its heart the novel is a love story betweem DeFoe and Imogen, caretaker of a local Jewish cemetery, who gradually develops an odd, mystical attachment to one of the paintings in the museum depicting a "Jewess on the Street in Amsterdam". At this point, in my opinion, the novel starts to take some turns that felt contrived and awkward. Why does Uncle Edward take a sudden interest in Imogen for example?
In any event, Norman has perfected a narrative style that is akin to a whisper, which as we all know is the best way to get attention right? I enjoyed reading the book, because I truly am a fan of Norman's unique style, but upon finishing the book I thought the whole thing got a little silly and out of Norman's control.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 4, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Having pressed The Bird Artist and The Northorn Lights on all of my reading friends, I was eager to buy and read The Museum Guard. I also read the excellent Amazon.com interview of the author in which he identifies the experiences that lead him to write The Museum Guard. However, The Museum Guard only compares to the other two compelling novels in that it rehashes some character traits and some happenings Norman has tossed around in the earlier works. Painfully sensitive and attractive young male protagonist. Tragic, but masculine foil. Refreshingly strong, but inherently lonely female. Surprising and shocking tragedies depicted as everyday happenings. They're all revisited in this newer work. I love this author's language, but I felt taken for a ride. The pain one experiences vicariously through these characters does not come with the same insight/payoff found by the end of the first two novels. I didn't like it, won't recommend it, but I will not give up on Norman yet. What's next?
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
After reading Norman's The Bird Artist, I was amazed, yet doubtful he could repeat the brilliance. Well, in the Museum Guard, he does. It takes seemingly unconnected bits of history, art, and plot and blends them togethor to form one of the most memorable books I've read in a long time. His genius takes the trials of everday people and makes the reader interested, if not obsessed with the strange twists and turns this imaginative, original plot takes. Don't read this book if you seek a story about right and wrong, a bad guy and a good guy. Norman is too brilliant to write a story like that.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Robson Lloyd on April 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
After finishing this wonderful novel, I felt like I had "discovered" a new author. Actually, Howard Norman has been writing since the early 1980s and published his first novel, The Northern Lights, in the late 80s. I was drawn to this book by its title (I work in a museum) but fell in love with it for its quirky characters. It seems that Norman's characters are often forged by tragedy. The parents of DeFoe, the young museum guard, were killed in a Zeppelin accident when he was a boy. He develops a close relationship with his often-drunk uncle Edward, but even closer ones with many of the women that pass through Edward's life, including Imogen, the caretaker of a Jewish cemetary, whom DeFoe and Edward both pursue, though in radically different ways. Be warned, there may be a moment in this novel when you will detest all three of these characters; but forge ahead, because at least two of them will redeem themselves. Don't think of this as just another novel with "quirky" characters. They certainly are quirky, but in ways that make them real rather than caricatures. I was left feeling somewhat troubled about Imogen and the reasons for her crisis, which drives the latter part of the book, and the determination of the people around her to sacrifice everything for her, but that is only a minor complaint. Above all, this is a coming of age story, mainly for DeFoe, who is a product of arrested development due to his parents' untimely deaths, but also for Edward, Imogen, and even--you will see--for the world.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Customer Images

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Search

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?