H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I generally don't do memoirs, but not because I'm a snob for everything else. I don't do them because I'm not really interested. A bit more oddly, I'm only mildly interested in hawks and falcons. I certainly never went out of my way to learn more after reading Stephen King's The Gunslinger, so why am I going out of my way now?
Mostly, it's because of the writing. I heard from several sources that it was good and I stayed as a low blip in my radar for quite some time, but then, finally Ilana tipped it over the edge for me. :) There's some really good biography stuff about T. H. White in here, and after having just read and enjoyed The Once and Future King, I didn't need that much further encouragement. :)
Helen Macdonald knows how to tell a story of herself. She managed to bring in personal tragedy in such a way that brought out real emotion, creatively, without dragging anyone down with her. In fact, it was the goshawk and the mirroring with this delightful bird that helped her work through so much. It's more a tale of becoming a partner and discovering the real nature of reality, and that includes both life and death, profoundly. In a more timid hand, the writing could have gone astray, or get bogged down as a scholarly work on the history of hawking, but no, it always remained personal with tons of interesting anecdotes.
So how does it relate to T. H. White? He failed in his own attempts to train or enter a partnership with is own goshawk, and it was entirely due to his relationship with the world and his own homosexuality. Helen Macdonald uses him and his writing, his history, and his particulars of psychology as a wonderful foil against her own journey. The mirrors were multilayered, with Bird versus Macdonald, and White versus Macdonald, and the mix was damn effective.
It also helped that her use of language was always enjoyable, reliable, and insightful.
I'm very happy to have gotten around to this, and I must thank Ilana for pushing me over the edge. Thanks!
I must never forget that I must spread my own wings and try new things or I, too, will stagnate. :)
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