I’ve always felt drawn to crows, but lately I’ve been feeling more and more interested in them. Something about their eyes and their behavior radiates mystery and intelligence to me. I think my next novel will involve crows in some way…
But, it also will involve active characters. In editing my novel and my novella, I’m noticing that despite how much I espouse having driving, active characters… my own characters are not super active themselves. Sure, they make choices and have consequences, but they could use a bit more passion and urgency. It’s true that not all people are passionate or urgent, but… those aren’t commonly the people one wants to read about…
Write and learn, I guess!
It seems that I see more and more crows walking the streets, picking at sidewalk trash in big crowds, not flying away when I come near… is it just me? Or are these birds becoming more a part of the city over time…
It seems to me they’ve learned that humans are not really much of a threat. That they can walk right up to us and we aren’t going to do anything. There have been numerous studies showing how smart crows are, and I think they are adapting and learning to live among us more and more.
A crow neighbor wouldn’t be the worst thing…
Turns out the version I purchased of The Peregrine also contains another writing, ‘Hills of Summer’, so I was much nearer to the end than I thought in my previous post. I’m now finished, and it ends just as it began, with prose of the highest order.
This is the kind of book that can only really be appreciated by someone who is a writer, or someone who reads a LOT, or someone who is a fanatic about nature. Fortunately for me, I am 2.5 of those, so I enjoyed it immensely.
There is barely a plot, so be forewarned. This is, on the surface, a series of journal entries written by someone who is watching hawks(peregrines). Every few days, a journal entry of what he saw that day, focusing on the hawks.
But there is a sort of arc to it. Each entry, the writer gets more and more obsessed with the hawks, and starts to imagine that they are accepting him as one of their own. He writes increasing asides about how humans suck (in prettier words) and the hawks are glorious and amazing. The end of the book is a clear end and is great when you look at the whole thing in context.
But, for someone looking for an actual story with plot and tension and conflict and enemies and goodguys, you’re not going to get that.
What you will get is prose that is so delicious and rich and new and perfect that you’ll be highlighting every other line. And you’ll get birds and nature up to your eyes and beyond, you’ll get imagery so lush you’ll drown in it in the most wonderful way.
If you’re a writer, you’ll appreciate the skill. If you’re a reader of many things you’ll appreciate the newness (maybe) and if you love nature, it will make you feel like you’re out in it.
Give it a shot!
I’m still reading The Peregrine , and it is taking me a while. It is such beautiful writing but with no conflict, it is easy to set it down. But I always come back eventually, for the beautiful writing. It’s like an expensive box of rare chocolate, you have one now and then and savor it, instead of wolfing it all down in one sitting.
But now, about 30% through the novel, it is starting to grab me with interesting things. Things other than descriptions of nature. It took a long time to get there, but I don’t think it would have been possible without all the buildup and setting of the tone and scene. And it is amazing, once it starts…
Now I’m getting the ‘what will happen’ urge to go back to it. Now I know something strange is going on, and I wonder what the conclusion will be. But I really don’t think it could have been done if it just started out that way.
Some things require patience and build up and preparation… sadly, things most people don’t have time for in entertainment anymore. If something isn’t exploding on page one, we put the book down.
I found myself imagining how a movie of this would be. Just shots of birds and animals, and a man walking through nature, watching, and his reactions to it and slow change in personality… no dialogue, no running around shooting or crying or fighting or arguing. Just shots of hawks killing wood-pigeons, and the man staring weirdly at the picked clean bones.
I’d watch it… but it would never be made.
I’m still reading The Peregrine, very slowly because the lack of narrative drive makes it a bit hard to get into. But it is starting to draw me in with the eerie feeling of looking into an alien world, even though all he is describing is perfectly natural Earth.
Seeing the lives of animals without any human involvement gives me a feeling of otherworldlyness, of being somewhere I don’t belong and couldn’t live. The amount of detail and care he puts into the descriptions makes me feel I’m really standing there observing these hawks and crows and ducks and pigeons and starlings and sparrows and all the dozens of other birds he describes. To be there, watching them live their lives and die their deaths, completely uninfluencing and uninfluenced by anything human, has a very alien feeling to it.
The animals of this planet live in their own world, in their own ways, and their lives go on whether we watch them or not.
I recently started reading The Peregrine by J.A. Baker, and am stunned by the beauty of the prose. I have always been endeared by birds and though I’ve never gone birdwatching, this is making me want to.
How he can go on about all the details of how these birds live, and make it so completely engaging and lovely, I don’t even know… I wonder how he can keep this up for an entire novel, and I have no idea, but am excited to find out.
After humans are extinct, birds will be the next to conquer the world with their minds. We’ve already seen that ravens and crows can understand death, solve complex puzzles, and remember human faces–now it seems they can plan for the future at least as well as a human child.
What would a world ruled by birds look like? Will they fill all of humanity’s niches after we’ve gone? What kind of tools would birds invent? Will they discover the secrets of the universe a million years from now?
Maybe, if we don’t take them down with us…