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I Am The Bird
T.M. Wright
PS Publishing paperpack £10

review by David Hebblethwaite

It is difficult for a straightforward summary to do justice to T.M. Wright's remarkable I Am The Bird, a novella in which nothing much happens, no story is told (in the conventional sense) and nothing is resolved as such - yet which is still a complete and satisfying reading experience. The protagonist, Max Gorshen, spends most of the time in his apartment with no one for company but his pet parrot Langley and (in his words) "the shadow creature I call 'the other (man)' who spends all his time in my long, dim hallway." Though Max detests visitors, he often looks out of his window at the people below; he believes he can see patterns in their movements and has identified growing numbers of "people on these streets who have no business there, or anywhere." And, at other times, he writes the fragmented narrative we read in this book.

Correction: he writes parts of that narrative. The other (man) also narrates sections, and even (apparently) Langley takes his turn at the keyboard; but it's not always easy to tell who's written what. For I Am The Bird is all about the slippery, uncertain nature of identity and perception; Max may scoff at the 'star' of a reality TV show who has started talking to people who aren't there after being made to live completely on his own, but could our protagonist be doing something similar? I don't know, and Wright is not giving anything away. He does a superb job of making the tale feel hermetically sealed, not just in the events (most of Max's contact with the outside world is indirect), but also in the prose itself (sentences, even whole paragraphs are repeated, sometimes more than once, but the effect is less like an ouroboros than a maze of mirrors). The resulting piece of fiction is quite unlike anything I have read in quite some time.

I Aam The Bird is the kind of book that would normally irritate me no end; I like stories with secrets to play fair and at least offer hints, but the whole point of Wright's tale is that its mysteries remain firmly unsolved. Perhaps that's the very reason I liked it, because it achieves its aims so fully. If you'd like to read something different, I Am The Bird will be right up your street. Just remember your way in, for the exit will not be so easy to find.
I Am The Bird by T.M. Wright

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