Friday, September 20, 2013

Birds of a Lesser Paradise: They put a bird on it

You guys know that animals rule my life, right? Because I can always post more dog pictures to every social media profile . . . if you need further clarification.

Well Birds of a Lesser Paradise is more or less a collection of stories expounding on the ways we do life (and death) with the furry and the feathered and the occasionally scaled. Or, more precisely, it’s about human relationships through the lens of our relationships with animals.

And...animals' relationships with animals.

A good amount of the stories deal in some way with motherhood, and most of them tend toward the morose. I don’t say that as a negative; I LIKE morose. But YOU might not like morose, and now you know that these stories are morose, which definitely doesn’t even sound like a real word at this point. Morose.

One of my favorite stories is one of the lighter ones. It’s called “Yesterday’s Whales,” and it’s about a couple who have just discovered that they’re pregnant. They are also outspoken proponents of voluntary extermination. That is, they think the only thing keeping the Earth from thriving is humans and so humans should do the honorable thing and stop breeding, letting themselves die out so nature has a fighting chance. And now that these two are breeding (albeit accidentally) . . . they’re just big, fat hypocrites.
I’ve been told self-righteous people always have it coming, that when you profess to understand the universe, the universe conspires against you. It gathers and strengthens and thunders down upon you like a biblical storm. It buries your face in humble pie and licks the cream from your nose because when the universe hates you, it really hates you. (p. 77)
I’m not saying I like this story the most because I enjoy to see the universe school self-righteous people. But I’m not NOT saying that, either. So.

My other favorite was “Every Vein a Tooth,” which is primarily about the ecstasy and the agony of inviting animals into your home.
That night, while I was watching Mr. Ed reruns, the raccoon crept onto the back of the couch and grabbed my necklace, snapping my head backward.
Rodent! I said.
Later, I found the retrievers licking plates in the open dishwasher.
Get! I said. Get out!
I was embarrassed by the desperate, angry sound of my voice.
Sam lowered his head, then raised his large brown eyes.
We are just being dogs, he seemed to say. (p. 179)

It’s not the MOST remarkable book I’ve ever read, but it speaks directly to my crazy-dog-lady heart, and I thought that was pretty swell. And I think there just might be something here that speaks to you, too. Unless you hate animals. In which case . . . the universe probably has something to say about that.


  1. Awww, I liked this book a lot, too! I read it as an e-book over the course of about six months, a few pages (not even one story) at a time, so I have not retained most of this book in my head. Nothing beyond the general "this was a good and cohesive collection of stories" thoughts, anyway.

  2. Portlandia quote ftw!

    I feel like this may be one that I need to be in a particular mood for, as I am not *as* crazy-animal lady as you, but I do like morose and I do like animals and I have been meaning to read more short stories. So to my TBR it shall go.

  3. Hmmm... I am a fan of morose. And animals. (less so of morose animals) So I will keep this in mind, is what I'm saying!

    This might be the most interesting comment ever. I don't mean to brag or anything, but yeah. *yawns exaggeratedly*

  4. "I LIKE morose. But YOU might not like morose"


  5. It's not enormously memorable, is it? I had to reread some of the stories before I wrote about it...but it's somehow still really good!

  6. It's Alice's fault...she kept hounding me with Portlandia clips.

    I don't read many short stories either, so I can vouch for this being a pretty good place to do that.

  7. The animals are RARELY morose, but the people almost always are. If that helps you at all.


  9. It's from The Omen, which no...I've never actually seen. But CULTURAL DIALOGUE.

  10. 10 points to gryffindor for the portlandia reference!!

  11. Give those points to Hufflepuff and we'll be in business.

  12. POST MORE DOG PICTURES. I mean, if you want.

    I would read this book because animals.