cover image Birds, Art, Life: A Year of Observation

Birds, Art, Life: A Year of Observation

Kyo Maclear. Scribner, $25 (240p) ISBN 978-1-5011-5420-1

Maclear (Stray Love), a Canadian novelist and children’s author, constructs a literary jewel box into which she places a year’s worth of ramblings collected while urban birding with a Toronto musician turned hobbyist photographer. Her tiny gems of thought are borne of purposeful waiting, quietude, and reflection; her anecdotes are about being a daughter and a parent, a creator and an observer, and an essentially solitary person who seeks connection with others. Some of the book’s passages feel overwrought, such as a section in which Maclear draws parallels between avians and humans who have been praised for their smallness. Her line drawings also feel frivolous compared with her often elegant language. But at her best, Maclear makes her nostalgic but unsentimental revelations appear serendipitous, and their seemingly haphazard manner belies their careful arrangement. These brief, well-paced tales possess a peripatetic air while touching on core questions of humanity. She finds quiet joy in engaging with a world that’s largely indifferent to humans. Maclear’s book is appealing in its appreciation of non-human nature in the midst of city life, agnosticism about the place of human activity in the midst of nature’s rhythms, and exploration of the relationship between captivity and freedom. Illus. Agent: Jackie Kaiser, Westwood Creative Artists. (Jan.)