For the Birdo in Your Life

Nextinction
Ralph Steadman (illustrator), Ceri Levy (commentary)
Bloomsbury
Aug 2015, RRP $69.99

nextinctionNextinction is one of those tricky books to pin down in a review. This mixed up, vibrant and colourful tome is part art book, part coffee table extravaganza, part humour, part social commentary and part call to environmental action. It is an ambitious follow-up act to the successful, similarly veined collaboration Extinct Boids.

The artwork by Ralph Steadman is reproduced as a gorgeous watercolour and ink spatter alternating between the comedic and the poignant. This is a journey not through the ranks of species already lost to us, but those which are so close to extinction that their end may well come within years or decades. This adds a sadness to the humour. It reminds me of Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams in which the author travelled around the world to see endangered animals and poke fun at them… we have something similar here, where humour is used to sneak in a serious message. The crazed mixture of actual endangered birds and invented nonsense species (the nonsense is more or less in the flavour of the Goon Show to give you a feel for it) is accompanied by commentary by conservationist and filmmaker Ceri Levy, who is the co-conspirator on this title. A fluid conversational exchange between Ceri and Ralph also weaves through the book, lending a casual and perhaps even oddly voyeuristic air to the text.

If you local bookstore has Nextinction tightly shrink-wrapped and you want to get a feel for the artwork inside, a quick image search will suffice to give a taste. The pages are crammed with beauty, small wry asides, and hidden little artful scribbles. If there is a birdo or twitcher in your life I can’t think of a better present this coming holiday season. Nextinction is very much the sort of book a bird lover will happily spend some long hours with. So long as there is a window nearby. You know, in case anything interesting flutters past.

About Christopher Johnstone

Christopher Johnstone lives in Melbourne
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