Theme II: Starlings

Starlings must have a significant pull on the literary mind. I've read of them in a short story by T. C. Boyle and at least two different comic books. They are an invasive species, outcompeting native species, for food and real estate (nesting spots).

I can't remember one of the comic books (the idea from this post coming from long ago), but I remember the Boyle story, when a flock sets up shop near a farmer. One of Boyle's recurring themes involves humanity's interactions with the natural environment, that which can't be controlled. For the farmer, the starlings represent horror, destroying his crop and his sleep.

Kevin Huizenga has a piece in the first Drawn & Quarterly showcase where he focuses on the language of starlings, which are given ominous significance. Critiques of this story focus on how Huizenga uses the starlings to expand the language of comics, either in expressing the sounds the starlings make, or presenting their flight patterns. But the starlings clearly hold a broader thematic appeal for these creators.

  1. First and foremost, they are mimics, reproducing the sounds they encounter in their own cries. It was this element that Huizenga brought to bear in his innovation. Both authors deal with the cacophony that results when these mimicry is merged. To Boyle, it is another form of pollution, destroying the reigning night time peace, and in Huizenga's work, the collected squawking settles over the environment like an acid-tainted rain cloud.
  2. They are invasive species. The metaphors abound, to the point where it almost doesn't bear mentioning.
  3. The circumstances of their invasion are surrounded by irresistable literary irony:
Although there are approximately 200 million starlings in North America, they are all descendants of approximately 60 birds released [in 1890] in Central Park, New York, by Eugene Schieffelin, who headed an acclimatization society trying to introduce to North America every bird species mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare.
(Wikipedia: Common Starling)

How beautiful is that! Of course, now I am partially concerned with invasive species, but how I wish that I only needed to be as concerned as anybody else.