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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

JOHN JAMES AUDUBON and PRESTON/CHILD

"The Carolina Parrot,"
by John James Audubon
I just now noticed, flitting over to Google.com for a moment to look something up, that today is the birthday of John James Audubon.  Normally, I don't take more than passing note of whoever's birthday it is that Google happens to be celebrating on any given day, however, this time, it happens to coincidentally coincide with the popcorn novel I'm currently reading, Fever Dream, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, who are, as it happens, my favorite popcorn novelists.

(I've been reading the Preston/Child books for so long--sheesh, something like fifteen years now--that opening their newest Pendergast novel is a little like a reunion with old friends, my two personal favorites of which are, of course, Special Agent A.X.L. Pendergast, FBI, and Lieutenant Vinnie D'Agosta, NYPD.  As far as the books themselves are concerned, and with the slight exception of a very few missteps on the authors' parts, the stories are fast, fun, gripping, and surprisingly literary.)

The plot of this particular contribution to the series is bent around the late, great John James Audubon and his treatment of the Carolina Parrot, as well as a lost painting of his called "The Black Frame," so-called because no one knows it's actual subject and, which, if you're interested, is an invention of the authors.  As you read this very post (anyone, anyone?) I'm nearing the end of the book (trying to slow down and savor it, for it will be another year or more before their next effort is released in paperback), which happens to be their best in quite a few years.  And as before (I'm thinking particularly of one piano composer and savant, Charles-Valentin Alkan), the authors have sparked in me interest in an area, albeit highly specialized, where I'd previously only spent little time.

Regardless of plot and the "literariness" of this particularly esoteric popcorn, the birds and wildlife of Mr. Audubon are fascinating, and, nostalgically speaking, have always held company in my memory and imagination with Norman Rockwell, as  both painters were on regular display via gigantic coffee table books at my grandparents' homes.

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