Wharton, William 1925-2008 [A pseudonym] (Albert du Aime, Albert William du Aime)

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Wharton, William 1925-2008 [A pseudonym] (Albert du Aime, Albert William du Aime)


See index for CA sketch: Born November 7, 1925, in Philadelphia, PA; died of an infection, October 29, 2008, in Encinitas, CA. Painter, novelist, and author. Wharton was an artist by trade, an abstract expressionist painter who settled in France and raised his family on a houseboat anchored in the River Seine. He was sometimes successful, sometimes not, but the fluctuating income from his artwork enabled him to pursue his greater gift: a talent for creative writing that earned him a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize nomination for his debut novel. Wharton painted under his birth name, Albert du Aime, but a strong aversion to celebrity inspired him to adopt the pen name William Wharton when he submitted that first novel for publication. Birdy (1979) is the unlikely story of a soldier in a hospital mental ward, desperately traumatized by action in World War II. The soldier, known only as Birdy, convinces himself that he is a canary and fantasizes life as a bird, finding a mate and raising a family of little canaries. The novel stunned critics, not only by its surreal and original plot, but also by Wharton's power to draw the reader into the first-person narrative almost to the point of believing it could really be happening. After several successful printings, Birdy was adapted as a film starring Nicolas Cage in the title role. Some of the credibility of Birdy's bizarre story hinged on Wharton's own experience as a breeder and vendor of canaries in his teen years; his knowledge of the breed was evident throughout the book. The tale of madness and obsession also drew on the author's clinical knowledge, acquired during his pursuit of a doctorate in psychology. The verifiable elements of the book lent credence to the fantasy. Several later novels also drew on Wharton's personal experiences. Dad (1981) explores the lives of three generations of men in a single family. Scumbler (1984) is the story of a painter living in France. A Midnight Clear (1992) tells a Christmas story of American and German soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge, in which the author himself was wounded during World War II. Wharton also wrote nonfiction, including Ever After: A Father's Story (1995), a straightforward account of his daughter's death in a car crash and his persistent quest for justice and closure. Wharton continued to paint, even after winning critical and commercial success as a novelist. He insisted that it was the routine of producing art which offered him the freedom to express himself as an author.



Contemporary Novelists, 7th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.

Wharton, William, Ever After: A True Story, Newmarket Press (New York, NY), 1995.

Wharton, William, Houseboat on the Seine, Newmarket Press (New York, NY), 1996.


Chicago Tribune, November 1, 2008, sec. 1, p. 25.

Los Angeles Times, November 1, 2008, p. B7.

New York Times, October 31, 2008, p. B10.

Times (London, England), November 15, 2008, p. 88.

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Wharton, William 1925-2008 [A pseudonym] (Albert du Aime, Albert William du Aime)

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