ABOUT THE BOOK:
Not quite hard to decipher … on the contrary, friendly and familiar sounding, An Alphabet of Birds is a prose collection inspired by “daily nature,” by those kerchiefs of landscape gracing us through a kitchen door, a car window, in the middle of our urban, busy life. They are glimpses and fragments, fugitive and yet poignant, loaded with surprise, magic, lessons to learn or else mysteries for the heart to treasure in secret, in awe.
An Alphabet of Birds encompasses an entire bestiary, from its namesake birds to the squirrel that owns the narrator’s backyard to the bears that own the salmon streams. The ground of these short prose pieces is everyday life, the “daily display of splendor.” Toti O’Brien invokes a world where what is wry and wise meets what is whimsical and surreal. Questions tumble, pile on top of one another, full of possibilities and speculation. O’Brien’s language has a rolling rhythm that unspools like an incantation. Fall under her spell and journey with her into the mysteries of the quotidian.
—Cynthia Anderson, author of Now Voyager and Route
This prose collection of 34 short stories describes the vagaries of birds, animals, plants, seen and described by a keen and talented observer. The author has patience, a gift of attentive focus on their behaviors and transformation, and a talent to write down the reflections on the meaning of these behaviors and transformation in the constant flow of daily life. Toti O'Brien author is a multi-talented poet, writer, artist, musician, and a friend of all living beings, the whole Earth.
—Maja Trochimczyk, Ph.D., Moonrise Press
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Toti O’Brien is the Italian Accordionist with the Irish last name. She was born in Rome, Italy, raised in Sicily and France. After touring Europe and Brazil with her itinerant theater, in the early nineties, she established herself in Los Angeles where she makes a living as a self-employed artist, performing musician and professional dancer. O’Brien’s first book of stories, Africa, was published in 1990. It was followed by another short story collection, Reversed Memories, two illustrated children books and an essay collection, Lanterna Magica, gathering selected work out of her long-term collaboration with Italian journals and magazines. O’Brien started writing in the English language in 2004. Since then, her poetry, fiction and non-fiction were published in hundreds of journals and anthologies in the US, UK, Ireland, Canada, India, Australia, and all over the world.
Her most recent appearances include The Moth, The Hamilton Stone, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and World Literature Today. Her poetry collection Other Maidens (BlazeVOX, 2020) and a prose collection, Pages of a Broken Diary (Pski’s Porch, 2021), are about to be released. Her work was nominated for Best of the Net, Best Small Fiction, Best American Essay, the Pushcart, and various other prizes. Her memoir ‘Nicotine’ won a nonfiction prose award in 2018.
Her essay ‘Blur In The Front Line’ won the Anthony Award in 2016. Besides her creative writing, she contributes articles and reviews about art, music, film, literature and civilization to several magazines. She also translates poetry and prose from the Italian, the Spanish, and the French. O’Brien’s multimedia artwork was exhibited in group and solo shows in Europe and the US, since the early nineties. Her paintings, sculptures, collages and textiles were featured in many publications, and she has produced book covers and illustrations.
FROM THE BOOK:
AUGUR (excerpt from page 134)
by Toti O’Brien
The only change she perceived were the magpies. A pair … black and white so sharply contrasted on their plumage, she asked herself if the edges of those different patches bristled and burned, sending out electric waves as they touched, scorched like naked nervous ends. Black and white so bluntly interlocked, they hurt her eyes.
The only change she later recalled were the magpies.
But it might have been a false memory. Perhaps, only the turtledoves were around. The usual bunch, though since the sumac trees had been cut they had multiplied. Now, as soon as she stepped out to the yard, a whole flock took flight with a rustling, rippling sound of reverse waterfall.
Turtledoves … their increased crowd was a change, correct. On the minor side.
And that underwing tinge of blue? Not sure where exactly … a flash, very intense but hard to locate. Streak of periwinkle on brown. She hadn’t seen it before. Was it new?
The scrub jay had changed as well. Lately, a fresh specimen had replaced the old one. She had nonchalantly accepted the switch, careless about the previous bird’s fate. Change is cruel, that way.
The new scrub jay was plump and full-feathered, its plumage so glossy it looked false. But a joy to behold.