The Bedside Book of Birds: An Avian Miscellany

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9780385514835: The Bedside Book of Birds: An Avian Miscellany

In this stunning assemblage of words and images, novelist and avid birdwatcher Graeme Gibson has crafted an extraordinary tribute to the venerable relationship between humans and birds.

Birds have ever been the symbols of our highest aspirations. As divine messengers, symbols of our yearning for the heavens, or avatars of glorious song and colour, they have stirred our imaginations from the moment we first looked into the sky. Whether as the Christian dove, or Quetzalcoatl—the Aztec Plumed Serpent—or in Plato’s vision of the human soul growing wings and feathers, religion and philosophy have looked to birds as representatives of our better selves—that part of us not bound to the earth.

With the passion of a birdwatcher and hoarder of words, Gibson has spent fifteen years collecting the literary and artistic forms our affinity for birds has taken over the centuries. Birds appear again and again in mythology and folk tales, and in literature by writers as diverse as Ovid, Thomas Hardy, Kafka, Thoreau and T.S. Eliot. They’ve been omens, allegories, disguises and guides; they’ve been worshipped, eaten, feared and loved. Nor does Gibson forget the fascination they hold for science, as the Galapagos finches did for Darwin. Birds figure charmingly and tellingly in the work of such nature writers as Gilbert White, Peter Matthiessen, Farley Mowat and Barry Lopez.

Gorgeously illustrated, woven from centuries of human response to the delights of the feathered tribes, The Bedside Book of Birds is for anyone who is aware of birds, and for everyone who is intrigued by the artistic forms that humanity has created to represent its soul.

From The Bedside Book of Birds ~

Stevenson remembered the story of a monk who had been distracted from his copy-work by the song of a bird. He went into the garden to listen more closely, and when he returned, after what he thought were only a few minutes, he discovered that a century had gone by, that his fellow monks were dead and his ink had turned to dust. The song of the bird had given him a taste of Paradise, where an instant is as a hundred years of earthly time. Was the same true of time in hell, Stevenson asked himself.

Alberto Manguel

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From the Inside Flap:

Birds have always created a sense of wonder and reverence in their earth-bound human observers. They are featured in creation myths of many different civilizations and appear with great frequency in fairy tales and fables the world over. Associated with creativity and freedom, with the spirit as opposed to the body, birds have been powerful symbols in religious traditions through the ages, from Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec plumed serpent, to the Christian dove. In all times and in every culture, they have inspired great works of literature and great works of art. Science, too, has looked toward the avian world for keys to understanding the nature of life on earth.
THE BEDSIDE BOOK OF BIRDS, an unprecedented and enchanting treasure trove of paintings, drawings, poems, essays, and scientific observations, beautifully captures the interest and emotions birds evoke. The illustrations range from early cave paintings to Audubon's famous portraits to abstract works created in the twentieth century. There are writings by Shakespeare, Coleridge, Poe, Ted Hughes, and Jorge Luis Borges, among many others. Excerpts from famous scientific works, including Darwin's observations on the tameness of the Galapagos Islands' birds, are here, too, along with charming and valuable pieces by such popular nature writers as W. H. Hudson, Peter Matthiessen, Farley Mowat, and Barry Lopez. It is a book to ponder, to savor, and to learn from, for the winged soul in all of us.

About the Author:

Graeme Gibson is the acclaimed author of Five Legs, Perpetual Motion and Gentleman Death. He is a past president of PEN Canada and the recipient of both the Harbourfront
Festival Prize and the Toronto Arts Award, and is a member of the Order of Canada. He has been a council member of World Wildlife Fund Canada, and is chairman of the Pelee
Island Bird Observatory. Gibson lives in Toronto with his spouse of thirty-five years, writer Margaret Atwood.

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