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My Fine Feathered Friend    by William Grimes order for
My Fine Feathered Friend
by William Grimes
Order:  USA  Can
North Point, 2002 (2002)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

My Fine Feathered Friend arrived as unexpectedly in my mailbox as the Chicken suddenly appeared in a 'tiny rectangle' of lawn in New York City. The misplaced barnyard bird charmed restaurant critic William Grimes into writing this little book, which I found equally captivating. It's a fluffy, feathery, witty tribute to a no-name Black Australorp, a bird of pedigree, who prompted the author to research hen history and habits, to the reader's delight.

The author muses about the origins of this immigrant to his Astoria back yard, whose 'black feathers shone, giving off a greenish purple iredescence in bright sunlight'. He studies its habits and speculates about its motivations and the lessons in them, in a section I would label 'zen and the hen'. He discusses its socialization amidst the existing population of neighborhood cats, amongst whom it quickly settles into a place in the pecking order, and shares their food ... 'Somehow it knew what all pushy New Yorkers know: The best way to jump the queue is to act as if you've been there all along.'

Readers learn that chickens take regular dust baths, can be resuscitated when frozen, eat almost anything (though Martinis are not recommended), and need light to lay eggs. Apparently, they were originally domesticated as athletes for their fighting skills, then valued as pets, and their eggs as a luxury food. I never knew that fowls could be so fascinating ... and, alas, mysterious. The Chicken simply disappeared one day, after reaching the heights of fame in the New York Times. Was it the burden of celebrity or nefarious deeds that routed her from her roost? You'll just have to read the book and form your own opinion.

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