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  • Birds Art Life Death

  • A Field Guide to the Small and Significant
  • By: Kyo Maclear
  • Narrated by: Laurel Lefkow
  • Length: 4 hrs and 50 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (23 ratings)

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Birds Art Life Death cover art

Birds Art Life Death

By: Kyo Maclear
Narrated by: Laurel Lefkow
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Summary

A writer's search for inspiration, beauty, and solace leads her to birds in this intimate and exuberant meditation on creativity and life - a field guide to things small and significant. 

In 2012 Kyo Maclear met a musician with a passion for birds. Curious about what had prompted a young urban artist to suddenly embrace nature, she decided to follow him for a year to find out. 

Observing two artists through seasonal shifts and migrations, Birds Art Life Death celebrates the particular madness of chasing after birds in a big city and explores what happens when the principles of birdwatching are applied to other aspects of art and life. It looks at the ecology of urban spaces and the creative and liberating effects of keeping your eyes and ears wide open. 

Far from seeking the exotic, Kyo discovers joy in the birds she spots in city parks and harbours, along eaves and on wires. In a world that values big and fast, Kyo begins to look to the small, steady, slow accumulations of knowledge and the lulls that give way to contemplation. 

Moving between the granular and the grand, peering into the inner landscape as much as the outer one, Birds Art Life Death asks how we are shaped and nurtured by our passions and how we might come to love and protect not only the world's natural places but also the challenging urban spaces where so many of us live. 

Untitled (Swedish Fall) (1971/2003) Bas Jan Ader © Estate of Bas Jan Ader / SODRAC (2016). Bertolt Brecht, 'An die Nachgeborenen', in: Bertolt Brecht, Werke. Große kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe, Band 12: Gedichte 2. © Bertolt Brecht / Suhrkamp Verlag 1988. The lines from 'What Kind of Times Are These', copyright © 2016 by the Adrienne Rich Literary Trust. Copyright © 1995 by Adrienne Rich, Collected Poems: 1950-2012 by Adrienne Rich. Used by permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. The lines from Madness, Rack, and Honey, copyright © 2012 by Mary Ruefle. Used with permission of Wave Books. 

©2017 Kyo Maclear (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic reviews

"Every now and then you read a book that changes the way you see the world. For me, Birds Art Life Death is one such book. The writing is marvellously pure and honest and light. At the same time, magically, it is erudite, generous and brimming with meaning and event. It is a book I know I will return to again and again for inspiration and solace." (Barbara Gowdy) 

"A meditation on freedom and confinement and the creative tension between the two.... The simple precision of Maclear's prose belies the depth, as if the book were the tip of the iceberg and what she has elided or omitted constitutes the rest. Writers and others will find inspiration in the advice to stop and hear the birds." (Kirkus Reviews)

"Intricate and delicate as birdsong, Kyo Maclear's clear-eyed observations of the natural world and our place in it challenge the velocity of modern life. A year spent birding is a year spent in passionate introspection. As she discovers beauty in urban cityscape, she leads us to turn fresh eyes to our surroundings. Her beloved birds become messengers of both loss and hope." (Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way)

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Simply beautiful

Beautifully written and narrated with some passages that will remain with me forever. Bird lovers will identify with the joy and pain of caring.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Insubstantial but enjoyable

I'm on a bit of a run of these kind of books. My favorites so far are 'H is for Hawk' and 'Hidden Nature'. I'd recommend either ahead of this which for me seemed a bit insubstantial and self absorbed at times. I did enjoy it though - particularly her thoughts on small works of art.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Intimate and poetic writing.

A beautifully intimate book, written almost poetically like the song of the heart. Maclear questions life in such a raw and honest way that it is as if she has plucked the words from my own mind. Through a use of language she paints an irreverent picture of the birds and people she encounters. Whether you are a birder or not there is something you can take away from this book

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pure pleasure

A wonderful, somehow magic book, and excellent reading. I was listening only to a small part of it every day, to extend this great pleasure.

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Profile Image for M. Solis
  • M. Solis
  • 16-06-17

Birds and lists

I love birding, I discovered this activity a year ago so I thought this book would be fun or interesting but neither, it is very boring; too many lists, as if to fill space and pseudo intellectual references.