The Bedside Book of Birds

John Huxley in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Screenhunter_1_5A few years back, at the end of a tiring book promotion tour, Graeme Gibson and his wife, fellow novelist Margaret Atwood, took time out to do some serious birdwatching in northern Australia.

One evening, while sitting on the balcony of Cassowary House, north of Cairns, they spotted red-necked crakes – rare rainforest birds – scuttling through the underbrush.

As Atwood, who won a Booker Prize for The Blind Assassin, later explained, it was in that moment that her dystopian novel, Oryx and Crake, was conceived. “It occurred to me almost in its entirety. When two or more birders are gathered together they always talk about ruination and horrible population crashes and extinction and things like that … I began making notes immediately.”

By a happy coincidence, this land, that trip, those birds, also inform and illuminate Gibson’s marvellous avian miscellany, which reads, looks and, perhaps because of the quality of the production, even smells good.

More here.