Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Sunday, August 01, 2010

Fever Dream

- the blue jay in the yard gives me the wiggly eyeball :)

My latest book from the library is Fever Dream by Douglas Preston and Lincold Child, the most recent in the series of novels about FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast.

The very first Pendergast novel, Relic, is still one of my most favorite books of all time (I wrote about it here) but the quality of the series deteriorated over time with the last one, Cemetery Dance, being so awful I couldn't read the whole thing. I'm about a third of the way through Fever Dream - so far it's so-so.

One interesting thing, though, about the book is its chosen topic of John James Audubon,. Before reading the novel, I had just the most basic knowledge og the Audubon Society and knew nothing of Audubon himself. If asked I would have said he was a scientist and a bird lover/protector, but no. He was a hunter and an artist fixated on birds, who killed them, taxidermied them, then painted their dead carcases after wiring them into realistic positions - eek! :(

- Audubon by John Syme, 1826

Here's a bit about him from Wikipedia ....

John James Audubon (April 26, 1785 – January 27, 1851) was a French-American ornithologist, naturalist, hunter, and painter. He painted, catalogued, and described the birds of North America .... publishing his Birds of America .... King George IV was also an avid fan of Audubon and a subscriber to the book. London's Royal Society recognized his achievement by electing Audubon a fellow. He followed Benjamin Franklin, who was the first American fellow. While in Edinburgh to seek subscriptions for the book, Audubon gave a demonstration of his method of propping up birds with wire at professor Robert Jameson's Wernerian Natural History Association. Student Charles Darwin was in the audience. Audubon also visited the dissecting theatre of the anatomist Robert Knox. Audubon was a hit in France as well, gaining the King and several of the nobility as subscribers .....

The Pendergast novel has the agent's wife murdered over the searching for a lost painting done by Audubon, the Black Frame, the subject of which remains a mystery to this day (and which is apparently purely fictional). Here's the publishers Weekly blurb about the book ...

Preston and Child up the emotional ante considerably in their 10th thriller featuring brilliant and eccentric FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast (after Cemetery Dance), one of the best in the series. For 12 years, Pendergast has believed that the death of his wife, Helen, in the jaws of a ferocious red-maned lion in Zambia was just a tragedy, but his chance examination of the gun she carried on the fateful day reveals that someone loaded it with blanks. Pendergast drags his longtime NYPD ally, Lt. Vincent D'Agosta, into a leave of absence that includes travel to Africa as well as the American South. The motive for Helen's murder appears to be linked to her fascination with John James Audubon and her quest for a mysterious lost Audubon painting. Once again, the bestselling authors show they have few peers at creating taut scenes of suspense. Their restraint in the book's early sections make the payoffs all the more compelling.


Anonymous Paul Maurice Martin said...

That urge to taxidermy is hard to figure from current times. But I suppose in Audubon's day the fragility of other species in relation to our activities hadn't become apparent so you could have a love and scientific appreciation of nature that said "Why don't I just kill it so I can see it better..."

I guess at a gut level I still don't get it...

8:09 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Paul - yeah, me either.

9:44 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Crystal, the BlueJay looks pissed that you took its picture! Be on guard my friend - LOL!

Pax Christi,


1:39 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Henry,

He does :)

3:27 PM  
Blogger Michael J. Bayly said...

Great photo! You have a real gift for capturing the beauty of the natural world.



11:26 AM  
Blogger crystal said...


Thanks :) I really like your photos too, especially the nature ones and the interiors.

1:54 PM  

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