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Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Shadow Catcher

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The Shadow Catcher

A Novel

by Marianne Wiggins

The Shadow Catcher by Marianne Wiggins X
The Shadow Catcher by Marianne Wiggins
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2007, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2008, 352 pages

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Beyond the Book

This article relates to The Shadow Catcher

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Marianne Wiggins was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1947. Her father, a farmer, preached in a conservative Christian church founded by her grandfather. She married at 17 and shortly after gave birth to a daughter, Lara, who she brought up on Martha's Vineyard (Lara is now a professional photographer in Los Angeles and took the jacket and author photo for The Shadow Catcher). Wiggins's first book was published in 1975 but it wasn't until 1984 with the publication of Separate Checks that she was able to support herself with her writing (full bibliography at BookBrowse).

She lived in London for 16 years and also briefly in Paris, Brussels and Rome. She married Salman Rushdie in January 1988. A little over a year later, on Valentine's Day 1989, the couple learned that Ayatollah Khomeini had issued a fatwa against Rushdie for perceived blasphemies in The Satanic Verses (1988). For about six months, she lived in a multitude of safe houses under the protection of the British government before deciding to take a flat (apartment) under a assumed name. In 1993, she and Rushdie divorced.

Since then, she has chased tornadoes in Nevada, explored the Amazon Basin, won various awards and in general led "a really interesting life". She currently lives in Los Angeles where she is a Professor of English at the University of Southern California.

The Shadow Catcher is intended to be the first in a series of novels set in California. She is currently working on a novel set in Owens Valley about the water wars and the building of of the Los Angeles aqueduct.


Edward Sheriff Curtis spent 30 years capturing more than 40,000 images of Native Americans including Geronimo, Chief Joseph, Red Cloud, and Medicine Crow. Although undoubtedly a gifted photographer, he has been charged with misrepresenting Native American people and cultures by paying people to pose in staged scenes, wear historically inaccurate dress and costumes, and take part in simulated ceremonies. The result are pictures that create an image of people untouched by Western society; whereas the reality was that at the time his photos were taken, many Native Americans where successfully adapting to western society while others were living in squalid conditions on reservations. In short, his photos were propaganda, altered to remove all traces of modern life, of people who, in the words of the fictional Marianne, were "confined in high-security encampments .... deprived of their livelihoods, forced into the manufacture of 'Indian-ized' tourist junk."


Interesting Links:

  • Photos of Edward S Curtis in his prime and Clara Curtis and children.
  • Curtis's masterwork, The North American Indian was printed on the finest paper and published in expensive leather in a limited edition at a price that made it prohibitive for all but the richest and avid of collectors. The subscription price in 1907 was equivalent to about $3,000 today, and only a few hundred copies were sold. Today, you can view all 2,228 images online for free at the Library of Congress website.
  • A comprehensive bio of Edward Curtis (which obviously contains plot spoilers in relation to Wiggins's book) at PBS.org.
  • A 2005 interview with Wiggins at BN.com.
  • A 30-minute audio interview on public radio, first broadcast in August 2007.
  • The extraordinary 1502 aerial landscape by Leonardo Di Vinci that the fictional Wiggins views in the opening chapter of The Shadow Catcher that you can read at BookBrowse.

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Shadow Catcher. It originally ran in September 2007 and has been updated for the June 2008 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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