I keep returning to the idea of the September 11th attacks to try to elucidate the choices made and the details that are included in The Avian Gospels. Novy said in his discussion to us something about his efforts to step back and analyze the way that the American public responded to and interpreted this devastation — he said that he found that the community reeled in all sorts of different ways, and yet generally the reeling was incited by misinformation. In other words, in responding to the attacks, we didn’t even know who were rushing to blame, or really what had indeed happened, but the attempt at finding deep meaning and instruction from this event was fiercely present for the American public. We grappled with that attempt even if the grappling was ill-founded. I think — though I could be missing the mark, here — that this is the sort of thing Novy engaged with while approaching The Avian Gospels. I remember he said, “I’m really interested in misinformation.”
I know we’re aligning with Barthes here and killing off our author and declaring his sincere death, but I can’t help but turn to what Novy said to help explain the swirling events and characters in this book. There is a clear interest in the relationship that the individuals in this text (Morgan, his father, Katherine, Mrs. Giggs…) have in regards to the presence of the birds. We know that some terror had already unraveled (a war and invasions, I think) and the birds seem to be a lingering, ever-present sign of the past catastrophe. They mark the changes that have occurred, the upheaval. Their strangeness and sheer numbers reflect, perhaps, the violence and disturbance of the war and how it has shaped the lives of these people. So we can observe their reactions to the avian city-dwellers and also learn more about their grappling with trauma, with history, with their attempts at moving forward. As Novy seemed to be saying about 9/11, each character seems to approach and interpret the birds differently, and not always coherently or wisely; Morgan, as we said, embodies the hot-headed teenage male, his father is acutely wary, Katherine is drawn to the birds but not necessarily because of their nature, but because she’s concerned about proving something about bravery to herself and to others. So there seems to be some level of misinformation or at least misdirection – a lack of true evaluation -marking these interpretations of the birds.