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

Two leading Seattle-area authors reveal different truths with their new books.
| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 
Standout local authors Claire Dederer (left) and Lyanda Lynn Haupt get personal with their new books.

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).

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