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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Falconry and fascism: Is there a connection?

Yes I get it that hawks are wild creatures and that they'd be hunting live prey whether in the wild or in captivity but what I don't get is how someone could derive pleasure from going out hunting w/ a hawk, flushing "game" from the field, letting the hawk "free" to attack and kill, and pulling the bird or rabbit apart and feeding parts of it to the hawk - even eating some of the prey? - no, this does not seem like fun to me - although obviously it is to Helen MacDonald, as sh describes in such detail in H Is for Hawk, including her beginning to think and perceive like a hawk. I don't quite get, or believe, that her interest in taming a goshawk is a direct result of her mourning her father, given that it had been a lifelong interest and she'd hunted w/ many falcons and hawks, but I do get that falconry for her is a way to be both the center of attention and quite unapproachable - so to the extent that she is withdrawing from society while mourning her father, yes, I do get that. I'm also interested in her comments on fellow hawk-trainer T H White, and her notes on the connections between falconry and fascism, in particular Nazism, noting the fascination falconry had for the Nazi leadership - the whole idea of the nobility of the hunter and the command and control, the loosing of the bird and the order to or instinct to kill. She does note that White "didn't like Hitler." Oh, that's good to know! But is there a connection between his politics and his avocation? That doesn't hold true for MacDonald, thank goodness - though we know almost nothing about her political beliefs (or intellectual and academic career), nothing in this book suggests anything odd or untoward about her politics - she is very different from White, too, in that his interest in the birds had something to do with his horrible upbringing and sense of alienation - which does not appear to be the case with MacDonald. But toward the end of the book she's opened up this channel - falconry and fascism - and I wonder if she will explore it further or shut it down.

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