Critic's Corner: A Review of Man with a Seagull on His Head by Harriet Paige

Reading this book felt like witnessing something I’m not supposed to be privy to. It starts slowly. You’re on a park bench and you see a person just casually being, just praying or walking or eating a sandwich, whathaveyou. But something oh so subtle about them clues you in to the greatest secret you’ve ever beheld.

Somehow this incredibly quiet book manages to impress emotion in a very pointed way. The story isn’t simple; a seagull literally falls on the head of one of the main characters. The woman who sees it, Jennifer, goes on to live a humble life with her Italian husband selling dresses in a boutique. But Ray, the man brained by a seagull can’t stop imagining Jennifer’s face. He paints and paints and paints and when he runs out of paint, he begins using his own blood and bodily fluids. It’s not that he’s in love with her—he’s never been in love before and can’t conceive of it. But he’s obsessed most certainly.

This is when two zany art collectors get involved. George and Grace Zoob swoop in and “rescue” Ray from his now dump of a house, requisitioning him to their spare bedroom where all he does is paint the woman in a series the Zoobs title, “She.”

Is this story about the witness, the victim, or Grace Zoob—a victim of her own making but an oddly inspirational one? For example, I love this quote from Grace, “Sometimes it was a joy to be empty, to hold that clean space inside of your stomach that came from being out and about before breakfast. It made her feel so light and so powerful. She had an inkling she might just become something marvelous were she never to eat again.

The answer is, this is a story about the moments wedged in between people becoming witnesses and victims, about how we forge our own futures or we face the brutal maw empty handed. Are you a Grace, a Jennfirer, or a Ray? Find out by reading Man with a Seagull on His Head which comes out October 9th this year. It’s short, ambient, and very well crafted.

- Elysia