Helen Macdonald, author of “H Is For Hawk” and now, “Vesper Flights”

by | Sep 30, 2020

Helen Macdonald—the naturalist, poet, and author best known for her acclaimed and award-winning memoir, “H Is For Hawk”; she’s published a new book, “Vesper Flights”—expands on a point she makes in the introduction of the new book about love being the subject that underlies her work, part of a broader observation that every writer has one subject that underlies theirs. In that introduction, she further notes that the love she refers to is for “non-human life,” while concurring in our interview that if Macdonald’s underlying subject is love, it’s laced with grief and other sadness. Macdonald addresses how liberating it feels to write shorter pieces, as opposed to penning a book—“Vesper Flights” is an anthology of essays, some as brief as a page or two, about animals, nature, and other topics. Because her parrot, Birdoole, stepped on Macdonald’s keyboard—raising the possibility the bird might disconnect our Skype call—it becomes a fitting moment to discuss “Inspector Calls,” a two-page piece which stars Birdoole, co-stars Macdonald and a visiting eight-year-old autistic boy, Antek, and yields two tear-jerking moments, a pretty high per-page ratio. From there, we touch on a truly sprawling array of topics, including her essay painting the picture of the singular ceremony held annually on the River Thames, swan upping (there’s a separate discussion of an unrelated swan who sits down on a riverbank, next to a broken-hearted Macdonald, another tear-jerking moment), the stealthy maneuver of sneaking up on and startling a herd of cows, cuckoos, the twilight flights of the swifts that gives the book its title, summer storms (both literal and metaphorical), her thoughts on anthropomorphism, and details of the tattoo she got while on covid lockdown. (https://groveatlantic.com/book/vesper-flights/https://www.instagram.com/emerillon

ALSO: I spoke briefly with Mark Reinfeld, the celebrated vegan chef and author—who heads the Vegan Fusion Culinary Academy, which began accepting applications the day of this broadcast for its Aspiring Chef Program. Reinfeld describe the Academy’s new facility in Boulder, Colorado, and this four-month course, designed to provide vegan chefs the training and techniques they need to succeed in the field. He says the academy will cap the number of chefs accepted into the program at 16, so as to ensure as much focused instruction—and mentorship—as possible for the participants, and outlines the sort of background and experience of vegan chefs who would be a particularly good fit for the Aspiring Chef Program. (https://veganfusionculinaryacademy.com https://www.instagram.com/veganfusionacademy/)



COMEDY CORNER:  Nate Bargatze’s “Fat Cat” (https://www.natebargatze.com)

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE:  We didn’t play “Name That Animal Tune” today.


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