Helen Macdonald has just won the Samuel Johnson Prize, a VERY big deal. Nice to see prizes go to someone whose writing eminently deserves it, especially when her choice of subject is so quirky, even controversial, as falconry.
It may say something about literary England– or nature loving England– that they would give a prize to a poet’s book about “blood sport”. Of course it helps that Helen may be the best and most vivid writer in England of her generation, even with peers and friends like Rob Macfarlane and Olivia Laing (who you should also read). And no, THIS time I am not going to quote her at length– do yourself a favor and buy her book, NOW.
Magdalena story, relevant: Joel Becktell came over at the end of a summer day last year and I had this photo of Helen under a photomural of a young Sheikh Zayed, a pic taken I believe in the late forties by Thesiger, up on the big screen of my computer. Do remember, though Joel is one of the world’s leading cellists and as sophisticated as me or thee, this is still a remote dirt road town where you may visit on horseback. The screen door opens into the room where I work, my back to it. I called “Come on in!” over my shoulder, and he did, holding a six- pack. Looked at the screen, and said with interest : “Who’s that chick with Zayed?”
I prefer this one with a Lammergeier myself:
But as Mary Ann Maddy said to me at the post office this morning: “… and she’s better looking than you, too!”