Food & Drink

Local Lit: Lessons From a ‘Disastrous Pirate Slut’ and a Bird Rescuer

Two leading Seattle-area authors reveal different truths with their new books.

By Elaina Friedman & Callie Little May 9, 2017

claire-and-lyanda

This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Seattle magazine.

Mozart’s Starling 
by Lyanda Lynn Haupt (Little, Brown, $27)

West Seattle’s Lyanda Lynn Haupt fully admits that her feathered protagonist is among the most hated birds in North America. In fact, Haupt makes a strong case for why starlings are so widely considered pests. But when she rescued a baby starling from a public park bathroom, she discovered that even the most common creature is full of surprises. More than a memoir, the book is a self-taught guide to raising a starling, a deeply researched historical study and an anthropological experiment that yields a slew of life lessons. Her account of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his pet starling has a dreamy narrative. Haupt seems to collapse time by drawing a parallel between herself and the maestro, linked by their attachment to the bird: “Yes, Mozart was a musical genius. But in the bare practical outlines, we are two writers, sitting at our desks, with starlings on our shoulders.” You don’t have to be an ornithologist—or a music lover—to find meaning in this book. What you’re likely to take away: the insight that we can learn a valuable lesson by taking a closer look at ordinary creatures, who aren’t so ordinary after all.

Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning
by Claire Dederer (Knopf, $25.95)

In reading Love and Trouble—Bainbridge Island author Claire Dederer’s follow-up to her best-selling yoga memoir, Poser—it’s easy to imagine her friendly, inviting prose as one half of a conversation with the late Nora Ephron about life, death and every varicose vein in between. Once a “disastrous pirate slut of a girl,” Dederer describes herself as a comfortable, successful, married mother. At 44, brash girl and troubled lady collide as she faces her mortality with bitingly funny observations and heart-wrenching disclosures others might save for best friends or confessional booths. Particularly juicy is Dederer’s wooing by an undisclosed famous writer. Her guilt over their kiss colors the encounter from flirtation to fruition. Her revealing admissions about conflicting morality and realities and subtle, insidious self-critique keep the reader nodding along in bittersweet recognition. With bleak Northwestern humor and matriarchal wisdom that burrows into the bones, she boldly unfolds abstract secrets into universal truths.

Dederer holds talks and readings at Town Talk (7 p.m., May 12) and at the Ravenna Third Place Books (1 p.m., May 15).

Follow Us

Longtime Seattle Artist Mary Ann Peters Opens Show at the Frye 

Longtime Seattle Artist Mary Ann Peters Opens Show at the Frye 

Peters’ first solo museum show is a testament to her decades-long career

After more than 30 years of active involvement in Seattle’s art scene, Mary Ann Peters finally has her first solo museum show...

The First Sculptor of Seattle

The First Sculptor of Seattle

James Wehn's work can still be seen all over the city

My first encounter with the work of James Wehn occurred in the 1980s during a family trip to the Seattle Center. At some point that day we found ourselves walking around in the nearby Belltown neighborhood when someone in the group pointed to a statue of Chief Seattle. The 400-pound bronze statue sits at Tilikum…

Unmatched Ingenuity

Unmatched Ingenuity

Edwin Fountain’s artistic innovations can be seen all over south Seattle

This tree is dead — Seattle Parks and Recreation had decapitated it — but to Edwin Fountain, it is a canvas. A piece of marble. A sculpture waiting to emerge. I ask him what it’s going to be. “I don’t know,” he says. “I’m waiting for it to tell me.”

Healing in Motion

Healing in Motion

Dance artist Lavinia Vago explores the power of movement through the art of dance

For millennia, movement has been an integral part of the human experience...