Monday, October 31, 2011

Pale Male and the Infertile Girl

Pale Male and the Infertile Girl
by Clark Casey
No Dead Trees Press

So. Although I cannot understand why, I've received a number of inquiries regarding advertising and reviewing various products on this slipshod blog of mine. I typically turn them down, or they just haven't worked out for some reason. However, I decided to go ahead and review Pale Male and the Infertile Girl, based on its unusual premise, and the fact that I have occasionally been known to read a book that wasn't written by David Sibley.

A quick primer: Pale Male is a Red-tailed Hawk that has nested adjacent to New York City's Central Park ever since the early 90's. Birders and other Pale Male fans keep a close eye on him and his mate every spring, as they openly nest on a building on Fifth Avenue. He has been the subject of 2 documentary films and at least 3 childrens' books. He is, without a doubt, the world's most famous Red-tailed Hawk. Watch this if you want to get an idea of what I'm talking about, and to learn more about one of this story's main characters.

Pale Male and the Infertile Girl is fiction though, and the protagonist of this story is not hawk, but human. A quick read at 49 pages, this novella follows a couple's long relationship in New York, their highs and lows, told from the perspective of Scott, an average-looking, middle-class guy. The story essentially begins when Scott meets Kim, an incredibly attractive woman who comes from a lot of money. After a lot of kinky sex, they take the next step and shack up together in a giant, extremely expensive apartment in an exclusive building overlooking Central Park in Manhattan. Soon they find out Kim is incapable of having kids, an affair is had, and both Scott and Kim struggle with the idea of Kim's inability to bear children. It's kind of the All American Story, isn't it? Amirite?

The twist, of course, is that there are an A-list pair of Red-tailed Hawks nesting right out their window, and neither Scott nor Kim can ignore the avian and human spectacle outside.

I have to admit, it seems to me that Pale Male and his various mates are not a necessary part of the story of Scott and Kim. The trials and tribulations of Central Park's celebrity Red-tailed Hawks (which, admirably, appear to be described here more or less accurately) seem to have little direct bearing on the overall plot. Sure Pale Male's impressive and unrelenting drive to reproduce gets into the heads of Scott and Kim, but do they really need to be watching hawks to be reminded that they want a child? Does Pale Male's regular rotation of mates really reflect on human infidelity? However, if one views Pale Male's activities as a sort of parallel plot, this issue disappears. Perhaps it simply depends on who you are more interested in...the hawk or the human?

Those reservations aside, author Clark Casey does a commendable job of intertwining Pale Male's life and times into the story, and I can't say I've read anything similar enough to offer any really relevant comparison. In this respect, Casey succeeds in making something unique. For any birder who reads this, the descriptions of the hawks do offer a new and interesting dimension to the story...hopefully, nonbirders will feel the same as well. Casey's accounts of Pale Male's history seems to be largely based on actual events, such as the destruction of their nest and the huge public outcry that came immediately afterwards. This narrative is quite interesting in its own right, whether it bears directly on the plot or not.

A couple other minor quibbles: Although worthy of a few smirks, I could have done without the cliche rough/kinky sex that is frequently mentioned (i.e. the device known as "Mister Naughty"). Don't get me wrong, I am a big proponent of rough sex, even gnarly sex, but in novels it often comes off more as a trite ploy than something that contributes to the story. The character of Sarah, the (figurative) ghost that haunts Scott on and off throughout Pale Male, is discussed so briefly that her inclusion is usually more distracting than anything else.

Although not without its shortcomings, Pale Male and the Infertile Girl makes a quick, entertaining and informative read. And it's only $3 as e-book! Hella affordable.

Pale Male is available from Smashwords and Amazon, in e-book or paperback form.

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