William Wharton (author)
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Wharton in 1999
|Born||Albert William Du Aime
7 November 1925
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US
|Died||29 October 2008 (aged 82)
Encinitas, California, US
|Pen name||William Wharton|
|Notable awards||National Book Award|
William Wharton (7 November 1925 – 29 October 2008), the pen name of the author Albert William Du Aime, was an American-born author best known for his first novel Birdy, which was also successful as a film.
Wharton was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From "a poor, hard-working, Catholic family", he graduated from Upper Darby High School in 1943, and was inducted into the school's Wall of Fame in 1997. During World War II, Wharton served in the United States Army and was first assigned to an engineering unit. He was transferred to the infantry, and was severely wounded in the Battle of the Bulge. His memoirs included an account of his role in the killing of German prisoners during the war - "War for me, though brief, had been a soul-shaking trauma. I was scared, miserable, and I lost confidence in human beings, especially myself." After his discharge, he attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where he received an undergraduate degree in art and a doctorate in psychology, later teaching art in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
His first novel Birdy was published in 1978 when he was more than 50 years old. Birdy was a critical and popular success and it won the U.S. National Book Award in category First Novel. Alan Parker directed a film version starring Nicolas Cage and Matthew Modine. After the publication of Birdy and through the early 1990s, Wharton published eight novels, including Dad and A Midnight Clear, both of which were also made into films, the former starring Jack Lemmon.
Many of the protagonists of Wharton's novels, despite having different names and backgrounds, have similar experiences, attitudes, and traits that lead one to presume that they are partly autobiographical. There is little certifiable biography available about Wharton / Du Aime. Based on the novels, one can surmise that he served in France and Germany in World War II in the 87th Infantry Division, was a painter, spent part of his adult life living on a houseboat as an artist in France, raised four children, was a reasonably skilled carpenter and handyman, and suffered from profound gastrointestinal problems.
In 1988, Wharton's daughter, Kate, his son-in-law Bill, and their two children, two-year-old Dayiel and eight-month-old Mia, were killed in a 23-car motor vehicle accident near Albany, Oregon, that was caused by smoke generated by grass-burning on nearby farmland. Wharton wrote a (mostly) non-fiction book, Ever After: A Father's True Story (1995), which recounts the incidents leading to the accident, his family's subsequent grief, and the three years which he devoted to pursuing redress in the Oregon court system for the field-burning that caused the accident. Houseboat on the Seine, a memoir, was published in 1996, about Wharton's purchase and renovation of a houseboat.
It is worth noting that he gained an enormous and unusual popularity in Poland, where many extra editions as well as visits followed and eventually some works were prepared and published only in Polish (see the Bibliography).
Wharton died on 29 October 2008 of an infection that he contracted while hospitalized for blood-pressure problems.
- 1978 • Birdy
- 1981 • Dad
- 1982 • A Midnight Clear
- 1984 • Scumbler
- 1985 • Pride
- 1987 • Tidings
- 1989 • Franky Furbo
- 1991 • Last Lovers
- 1994 • Wrongful Deaths (memoir)
- 1996 • Houseboat on Seine (memoir)
- 2012 • Shrapnel
The following titles were only published in Polish - includes English translation of title
- 1998 • Historie rodzinne - Say Uncle
- 1999 • Al (sequel to Birdy) - Al (subtitle) Worth Trying (?)
- 1999 • William Wharton - Album (reproductions of paintings)
- 1999 • Opowieści z Moulin du Bruit - Tales of the Moulin Du Bruit
- 2000 • Tam, gdzie spotykają się wszystkie światy - Beyond the Closet
- 2001 • Niedobre miejsce - A Hard Place
- 2001 • Nigdy, nigdy mnie nie złapiecie - Nyah, Nyah, You Can't Catch Me
- 2002 • Nie ustawaj w biegu - Run, Run, Run
- 2003 • Rubio - (roughly "fair-haired" or blonde - from Spanish)
Beyond the Closet was also published in Bulgarian with the title Отвъд килера (2007)
Movies based on Wharton's books
- "Birdy author's memoirs tell of his part in a war crime". The Observer (London). 19 February 2012. p. 13.
- Martin, Douglas (30 October 2008). "William Wharton, Author, Dies at 82". NY Times. Retrieved 31 October 2008.
- "National Book Awards – 1980". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 28 February 2012. (With essay by Dorianne Laux from the Awards 60-year anniversary blog.)
• First novels or first works of fiction were recognized from 1980 to 1985.
- Upper Darby High School Wall of Fame
- 87th Infantry Division
- Birdy staged in Estonia
- Biographical essay in Polish