Songs of Spring

April 21, 2010

Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo by Michael McCarthy

Michael McCarthy’s book Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo does with style and ease what is perhaps the hardest thing for a book about birds to accomplish: it is compelling and fascinating even to those who have no interest in birds.

Part of his success comes from the skill of his writing. McCarthy is quietly humorous, with a conversational yet intelligent tone.  His passion for his subject shines through in every description and anecdote; yet despite his expertise, he manages to make the world of migrant birds open and understandable even to someone (like myself) who might not be able to tell a sparrow from a cuckoo, let alone a garden warbler from a greenshank.

But more so, McCarthy’s book is accessible and enjoyable to everyone because, as he so eloquently shows, we do all care about birds. Even if we don’t know the details of species or flight patterns, birds are an essential part of our culture, our history, and our daily lives. The best way to appreciate this is to try, as McCarthy does, to imagine a world without them. But, as he tells us, the worst part is that we may not have to imagine much longer.

The final piece to the puzzle of what makes Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo such an exceptional book is that it goes beyond a mere ecological narrative. It is also a story of people: the people who watch these birds, the people who discovered them, and the people who are working to save them. Perhaps my favorite scene is McCarthy’s twilight search for the nightingale, with the help of his son, Sebastian. In this personal story we can see an instance of an experience that is important to us all, an experience that is under extreme threat. And if we don’t take action now, McCarthy warns, it is an experience we will be forced to forever live without.

Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo is both a celebration and a warning. It shows us a beautiful world that many of us may not even be aware of, and then shows us how close we are to losing that world forever. This is more than just a book about birds, and there is no one to whom this story is not important.



Spring 2010 interns

April 5, 2010

Meet our latest and greatest batch of dedicated, hard-working interns…

Anjali Becker

Jali Becker recently graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in history and no clear idea of what she actually wanted to do, now that she was supposedly “all grown up.” After spending a few years consulting, she realized that what she really likes is reading books, talking about books, and generally being around books. So she decided that a career in publishing might be a good idea. She can’t cook, hates cleaning, and knows way more random movie trivia than is healthy. Her favorite word is “sesquipedalian.”

Laura Stiers

Laura Stiers is a third-year English major at the University of Chicago, where she is the poetry editor for the literary magazine Euphony. Last summer, she worked as a student assistant at the University of Chicago Press, and found it to be pretty much the coolest job ever. Now she is excited to continue her adventures in publishing at Ivan R. Dee. Laura occasionally spends her time not reading a book for one or even two hours at a stretch, but then quickly comes to her senses.

A.Jay Wagner

A.Jay Wagner originally hails from rural Ohio and has the accent to prove it. After graduating from the University of Dayton with a marketing degree, he impetuously packed his bags for Portland, Oregon. While in Portland, he worked various grocery jobs before finding employment for two years in the commercial real estate industry. He interned at Yeti Magazine and Tin House. He published a zine, Ephemeral, of friends’ writing and art on a clam shell letterpress. No doubt, a large stack of Ephemeral issues (complete with 4-D glasses) sit piled in a corner of Reading Frenzy. A.Jay returned to his Midwestern roots to begin work on a master’s degree in journalism at DePaul. He writes for a variety of blogs and also interns at Windy Citizen.

Ryan Warden

Ryan Warden is a senior at Northwestern University, studying English literature with side interests in film and media studies. In addition to interning at Ivan R. Dee, he works as a bookstore assistant at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art and as a tutor at the Northwestern University writing center, working primarily with ESL students, faculty and staff. After graduation, he hopes to continue working in book publishing, following his interests in film, cultural studies, history, and literature in translation.