Helen Macdonald, author of “H is for Hawk”

by | Apr 8, 2015

Helen Macdonald—author of “H is for Hawk,” a wildly-acclaimed, multifaceted memoir that recounts Macdonald’s struggle with the debilitating grief spawned by her father’s sudden death, and her singular solution to that struggle: training a goshawk, a large and particularly fierce bird of prey—explains that at 37, she had not yet experienced profound loss, so her dad’s passing generated an extra emotional wallop. 1406742829457Macdonald describes the earliest days of that sadness and how she arrived at the conclusion that the best way to ease her grief would be training and flying a goshawk. Too, she acknowledges that she settled on a goshawk precisely because they are so complicated and high strung—that any less challenging a bird would’ve failed to provide the sweeping diversion she sought. Responding to the part of “H is for article-2704475-1FF293F400000578-208_233x350Hawk”—which has received Samuel Johnson Prize, the UK’s most prestigious non-fiction award, and a long string of rave reviews (The New Yorker critic called it “perhaps the finest nonfiction I read in the last year”)—that chronicles first meeting her goshawk, whom she decided to call Mabel; she elaborates on purchasing Mabel through the internet, and the superstition of not giving your goshawk a sinister-sounding name, which often yields a meek and New_First-morning-_2987073cdisappointing bird, whereas selecting a goofier moniker virtually assures the desired menacing creature. Macdonald reads the poetic pages in “H is for Hawk” that depict her reaction upon first laying eyes on Mabel. She discusses the abridged biography of author T. H. White that constitutes a through-line of the book, speaking to why White (and “The Goshawk,” his account as a neophyte in falconry) became such a prominent presence in her book. Noting that Mabel turned out to be surprisingly playful when they were at home (where they also watched a lot of bad TV together), Macdonald observes that some of her falconry colleagues who fly goshawks—decidedly a male bastion—were sheepish about confessing that they, too, played with their goshawks. A secret shame of sorts! She also contemplates aloud, some years after the deaths of her father and (spoiler alert!) Mabel, what she knows now about loss and how to deal with it. (www.groveatlantic.com/?isbn=9780802123411)New_H-and-mabel-wa_2987055c


ALSO: I spoke briefly with Twila Cole, of the Humane Society of Pinellas County, about their then-forthcoming Spring Pet Fest. (http://humanesocietyofpinellas.org)

COMEDY CORNER: Rocky Laporte’s “The Zoo” (portion) (http://rockylaporte.com)

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” Sons Of Hippies’ “Ladyhawk,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: Bill Haley & His Comets’ “See You Later, Alligator”


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