Sunday, September 15, 2019

Review: The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America by Matt Kracht

I am not a birder by any stretch of the imagination. I cannot identify many birds off the top of my head. I do not have bird feeders in my yard to attract our feathered friends. But I do enjoy listening to them chirping and peeping in the trees, even if I can't ever follow their trills to their location. I enjoy watching their little head tilts and apparent curiosity when they catch sight of me as they hop along the deck railing or from branch to branch of the backyard trees. Their preening makes me laugh as I admire the intricacy of their feathers. So I consider them welcome visitors to my yard but my investment and expertise in them is nil. As I was browsing at the bookstore one day, I saw this intriguing little book by the cash wrap and picked it up. Of course it had to come home with me. Now I'm hoping to spot some of the annoying little twit(terer)s Matt Kracht has drawn and described here in his entertaining, profanity-filled field guide.

Modeled after actual field guides, this snarky little spoof of a book has sections on the birds, bird watching tips, seasons, extinct species, bird feeders, and more. The section on the birds themselves are the most entertaining, of course, and that is subdivided into author created bird classifications. Kracht has grouped the birds in the categories of Typical Birds; Backyard Assholes; Hummingbirds, Weirdos, and Flycatchers; Egotists and Show-offs; Fuckers; Floaters, Sandbirds, and Dork-legs; and Murder birds. He illustrates each entry with quick, appealing sketches roughly colored in. The birds are given sarcastically derisive names (the real name is listed below the invented one) and the entry on each bird is short, pithy, and often hilariously annoyed. For example, the seagull's entry reads in part " The commonly used term 'seagull' is actually a catch-all for the many different types of gull and it doesn't describe a specific bird. Practically speaking, this doesn't matter because they're all the same trash bird at heart." His entry on the Canada Goose starts off sarcastically, "Thanks a lot, Canada." Kracht's primary complaints about birds are their annoying and constant loudness and their tendency to poop everywhere. Despite his irreverent, negative and fairly accurate descriptions, it is clear that Kracht actually enjoys birds quite a lot (and not just roasted or baked). The biggest problem with this book is the positively microscopic print but that's a design flaw, not a content flaw. The humor does wear a little thin over the course of a reading unless you read it in small snatches but as long as profanity doesn't offend you, you'll probably giggle along often enough to make this worth reading. I know I did.

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