MM: You have a law practice in Novato and were once mayor of Tiburon — impressive resume. Is this your first stab at writing? PL: As a civil litigator, I’m writing all the time in the guise of legal briefs. So it’s a different kind of writing, but writing nonetheless. I also started birding at a very young age and have had a number of essays on the topic published in the past. But I never thought about writing a book. And before I discovered that longforgotten news article, I thought everything there was to say about John James Audubon had been said.
MM: What news article? PL: I found a clipping from The San Francisco Call — an old city newspaper — from 1896 in a scrapbook kept by the Audubon family. It recounted the memories of a man named Joseph Coolidge who, at 18 years old, had journeyed with Audubon to Labrador in Canada in the summer of 1833. This was a critical time period in Audubon’s life: he was in the middle of the production of The Birds of America, his magnum opus, and he was recovering from a stroke. I’ve been interested in Audubon for most of my life, and Audubon is pretty much the patron saint of bird-watchers. So I had heard about the Labrador expedition but had never heard any of these stories.
MM: What was your biggest takeaway from researching this portion of Audubon’s life? PL: The expedition taught him more about himself than I think any other journey into the wilds had. He began to recognize that he was facing the end of his life and he had this massive publication to finish. After his stroke, he needed this return to wilderness in order to recover from the trauma. And, lastly, he began to understand, based on what he observed in Labrador, that mankind had the ability — even at that rather early stage in our [modern] history — to completely wipe out species of wildlife. So he returned as a nascent conservationist.
Local Page Turners
Audubon: America’s Greatest Naturalist and His Voyage of Discovery to Labrador by Peter B. Logan (Novato), Ashbryn Press, $40. The Birds of America was one man’s dream to illustrate and publish a work depicting all of the birds of North America. Midway through the nearly 12-year project, the French-American painter and naturalist John James Audubon was beset by obstacles and began to doubt if he could complete it. Peter B. Logan recounts the unforgettable story of the famed American woodsman. Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera on August 25, 7 p.m.
The Shaking Reeds by John Pedersen (San Anselmo), Amazing Grace Media, $15.95. When Soren Rauhe accidentally dumps his coffee in the lap of Jenny Farrar, his life of vintage motorbikes, NorCal surf and Irish tunes gets seriously complicated. The Shaking Reeds is jam-packed with musical references, unexpected twists and lots of humor. What else would you expect from John Pedersen, owner and operator of San Anselmo’s Amazing Grace music store? Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera on August 6, 4 p.m.
Dropping the Struggle: Seven Ways to Love the Life You Have by Roger Housden (Larkspur), New World Library, $19.95. The latest short book from teacher and anthologist Roger Housden is an antidote to the anxiety and stress of constantly feeling that you have to battle your way toward a life of meaning, love and personal significance. It offers an alternative view of and vocabulary for the language of struggle and competition that is so commonly used in any conversation about career, purpose, intimate relations and even spiritual practice. Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera on September 8, 7 p.m.
Let There Be Laughter by Michael Krasny (Greenbrae), William Morrow, $19.99. From the host of KQED’s Forum with Michael Krasny comes a compendium of Jewish jokes that packs the punches with hilarious riffs. Krasny delves deeply into the themes, topics and form of Jewish humor. Borrowing from traditional humor and such Jewish comedy legends as Mel Brooks, Joan Rivers, Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld and Amy Schumer, Let There Be Laughter is a pleasure for members of the tribe and the goyim alike. Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera on September 27, 7 p.m.