cover image Hummingbirds Between the Pages

Hummingbirds Between the Pages

Chris Arthur. Mad Creek, $23.95 (264p) ISBN 978-0-8142-5484-4

In these reflections on memory, mortality, and history, Irish essayist Arthur (Reading Life) exhibits a well-trained “magpie-eye” for the telling fact or detail that seems trivial but contains a greater significance. Such is the case with the tendency of early Scotch-Irish immigrants to America to press hummingbirds, an unfamiliar species to them, between the pages of a book and send these mementos home. To Arthur, this is a metaphor for his own process of trying to capture the ineffable in textual form. Elsewhere, Arthur fixes on the moment on December 6, 1834, when Charles Darwin, visiting San Pedro Island off the coast of Chile, killed a species of fox seldom seen there. Observing the odds against the famous naturalist and the rare species crossing paths at that very spot, he reflects that “any moment offers a portal into the tapestry of time and chance and consequence.” Still another essay discusses discovering his father’s pocket watch, recalling memories that made “the temporal ground beneath my feet... suddenly gave way” and send him “plummeting back three quarters of a century.” Arthur is a gifted observer, and these finely crafted essays will surprise and delight. (July)