Friday, October 31, 2008

William Wharton dies at 82

William Wharton, author of the National Book Award-winning novel Birdy (1979), has died at the age of eighty-two. He raised and sold canaries as a boy. This deep and encyclopedic knowledge of birds is what gave his first novel, published when he was fifty-three, its effortless authority. He thought of himself primarily as a painter; he signed his paintings with his birth name, Albert William du Aime; but it was as William Wharton that he earned a lasting reputation, even if his later novels, which he turned out at the rate of every year or two, never quite approached the level of his first.