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

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Monday, May 4, 2015

Useless and pointless knowledge?: All you'll ever need to know about hawks

Pretty near unanimity at book group last night, in that we all found Helen MacDonald's H Is for Hawk a pretty good read, very intelligent, and the last word on falconry and hawks - a book I for one never would have picked up on my own and didn't think I'd like but was held by her strong writing and by the thirst for "useless and pointless knowledge" about arcana. Didn't love the book but admired its spirit - and I for one thought the story did have an "arc," as HM over the course of time grew from a social isolate and eccentric to one who was more connected with family, friends, and other people. In particular, I was delighted by the way in which her visit to America opened her up - showed her a kind of freedom that she'd never experienced in class-bound, private-property, no-poaching England; also I liked that she toward the end began to recognize the fascistic aspects of falconry and its association even with Nazism - and that strange encounter with the anti-immigrant seemingly lovely elderly couple - HM is much more mature and complete by the end of her story. Nice to see in acknowledgment that she does have many friends. Some quibbles raised: JoRo noted how falconry is a blood sport - and all agreed it was very gruesome and not something we would engage in or condone - we all were disturbed by her need, the need of the entire sport, to control and dominate a beautiful wild creature; BR felt book was over-written with far too many similes, and we all agreed her prose was over the top at times and that the shifts among the various time segments were sometimes disorienting - but I think all but BR commended HM for some excellent descriptive passages and for making us understand not only the art of falconry but how far gone she was at her lowest when she was trying to see things as a hawk does - when what she really needed to do was see things as a woman does. We generally thought, to paraphrase HS Truman, that if you want an animal that's a friend, get a dog - the hawk remains wild and, despite its training, completely indifferent to human presence, no matter what she may think. We also felt she was a little disingenuous, or perhaps manipulative, in not coming clean early on about her rather extensive experience with hawks and falcons. JoRi surprisingly thought the title was ridiculous, but I strongly disagree there - it's catchy, and it worked. A book worth reading, at least as a curiosity, but I'm glad we're moving back to fiction next month.

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