I’ve been a fan of The Mincing Mockingbird since the hoary days of Livejournal. Matt Adrian’s characteristic style features acrylics of birds against stark backgrounds, titled with or accompanied by sly, off-kilter phrases (representative: “I preen for Satan”, “The risk I took was calculated, but man, am I bad at math.”) You would think this would become a shtick, but Adrian’s ability to capture expression in avian faces creates the sense that these birds are real characters. The sheer wildness and more-than-occasional sociopathy of the captions make it impossible to react with anything but glee to the shameless anthropomorphism. After all, these are for the most part creatures with brains largely given over to hunger and navigation.
It’s no surprise to learn that in creating these works, Adrian often comes up with vignettes for his birds, mini-stories that explain how they’ve gotten to this wild-eyed or wistful junction in their lives. Now a series of these vignettes have been collected in The Mincing Mockingbird Guide to Troubled Birds, “an illustrated pocket field guide that enables anyone to quickly identify psychotic, violent or mentally unstable bird species.” It is a slender volume (64 efficiently-deployed pages) but it packs a thorough dose of Mincing Mockingbird goodness between its covers. The vignettes vary widely, but the strongest, for the most part, are from the birds’ point of view and brief to the point of poetry.
This is not a collection for anyone lacking a dark sense of humor – death and dismemberment, mental and physical debilitation, and very misspent avian lives are the topic of every page. On the plus side, if you keep it near your toilet, undesirably sunny types will use your bathroom once and never darken your door again.
The Mincing Mockingbird Guide to Troubled Birds will be available in June from Blue Rider Press.
Do you know what kind of bird the calculated risk bird is?