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22

WEDNESDAY

I boycotted Howard Norman’s The Bird Artist for aesthetic reasons. Simply put, I hated its title. Birds, artists—why, Norman might as well have called it The Horse Whisperer. But his new one, The Haunting of L., is so swell I might have to give The Bird Artist another chance. Set against the frigid backdrop of ’20s Canada, The Haunting of L. offers up a suspenseful mix of adultery, murder, and eerie spiritualist hoodoo. Peter Duvett is a morally opaque man with a gift for writing captions; his employer, Vienna Linn, is an artist with a horrifying specialty. Binding them together is Linn’s wife, Kala Murie, a spiritualist whose specialty is the Uninvited Guest, a spirit that makes its presence known through the medium of photography. As fully realized an exploration of sin and guilt as the works of such 19th-century pessimists as Natty Hawthorne and Eddie Poe, The Haunting of L. suggests we have less to fear from vengeful spirits than from the phantoms of our own remorseful minds. Norman reads at 7 p.m at Chapters, 1512 K St. NW. Free. (202) 347-5495. (Michael Little)