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Friday, 26 September 2008

The Old Bird, A Love Story by: J.F. Powers

The Old Bird, A Love Story
(Illustrated Edition)

J.F. Powers
(Author)

Barbara Harman (Illustrator)
ISBN 1879832267

Minnesota Center for Book Arts

This short story is a like a sad version of the The Gift of the Magi with the sacrifice, but without the reward. The story is one of an old man looking
for work during a depression. He finds a temporary seasonal position, yet his day is long and hard. When he goes home he must act a role with his wife. This is a sad tale of a sad man - a man who has lost it all, but must keep plodding on. While working, he overhears part of a conversation about himself, and he is referred to as the old bird.

This story is heart-wrenching. I have known people like Mr. Newman, men broken and beaten by life, tortured, timid men. The story evokes great emotion.
But what makes this book so excellent is not the story. It is this special edition. The story is enhanced by the illustrations from Barbara Harman. This special edition was created by the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. The project created 260 signed, numbered, limited-editions of this soft story. The Old Bird, a Love Story was published by the Minnesota Center for Book Arts on December 7, 1991. It was the fourth in an annual series commissioned to celebrating winter in the Upper Midwest. The story previously appeared in the Rocky Mountain Review, (1944) and in Prince of Darkness and Other Stories (Doubleday, 1947).

The book is a treasure for the Powers' fan, or for a serious bibliophile. Beautiful to hold and read, the book itself is a work of art, let alone the art of the story within on the pages. Gaylord Schanilec, MCBA Artist-in-Residence in 1991, designed and printed the book on Rives Heavyweight. The Garamond type was composition-set at Harold Berliner Type Foundry. There were two editions of this sp
ecial edition - first the standard edition which consists of 260 copies, numbered and signed by the author and bound by Greg Campbell of Campbell-Logan Bindery in a non-adhesive paper binding. Second the deluxe edition consists of 40 copies, lettered and signed by the author and the artist. This edition is bound by Dennis Ruud in quarter leather with an original monoprint by Barbara Harman in a leather-edged slipcase. These special editions of this book were made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts Literature Program and with the generous support of Allegra and Paul Parker and Gail and Henry See.

If you can track down this edition, it is tremendous. A very persistent person from the InterLibrary Loan Office at the University of Waterloo was able to track it down for me after attempting a number of different libraries. It was a pleasure to read such a special book.
My Reviews and Articles on Powers:

1962 - Morte d'Urban - novel
1963 - Lions, Harts, Leaping Does, and Other Stories
1988 - Wheat that Springeth Green - novel
1991 - The Old Bird, A Love Story - Illustrated Edition
1999 - The Stories of J. F. Powers
J.F. Powers Selected Bibliography
J.F. Powers Book Covers
That Elusive Story
The Warm Sand
Meme Booked By 3 May 2007
Meme Book Meme
Meme Booked by 3 February 2007

RS398 Directed Reading - The Religious Fiction of J.F. Powers
Essay - Why J.F. Powers
The Prince of Darkness and Other Stories
The Presence of Grace
Morte d'Urban
Look How the Fish Live
Wheat that Springeth Green
Essay - J.F. Powers Literary Life and Legacy

(First published in Imprint 2009-07-24.)

(Note: Illustrations used by permission from
Barbara Harman they both come from this book. You can find our more about Barbara from her websites here and here.)

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