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Tuco and the Scattershot World

A Life with Birds

Regular price $32.95 CAD
  • ISBN: 9781771640633
  • Tags: Biography & Memoir, Brian Brett, Nature & Environment,
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Published On: 9/17/2015
  • 344 Pages
  • ISBN: 9781771640640
  • Tags: Biography & Memoir, Brian Brett, Nature & Environment,
  • Published On: 04/09/2015
  • 320 Pages
  • ISBN: 9781771643009
  • Tags: Biography & Memoir, Brian Brett, Nature & Environment,
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Published On: 08/26/2018
  • 344 Pages

Reading Guide Available (Download/See All)

For thirty years, Brian Brett shared his office and his life with Tuco, a remarkable parrot given to asking such questions as “Whaddya know?” and announcing “Party time!” when guests showed up at Brett’s farm. Although Brett bought Tuco on a whim as a pet, he gradually realizes the enormous obligation he has to the bird and learns that the parrot is a lot more complex than he thought.

Simultaneously a biography of this singular bird and a history of bird/dinosaurs and the human relationship with birds, Tuco also explores how we “other” the world—abusing birds, landscapes, and each other—including Brett’s own experience with a rare genetic condition that turned his early years into an obstacle course of bullying and nurtured his affinity for winged creatures. The book also provides an in-depth examination of our ideas about knowledge, language, and intelligence (including commentary from Tuco himself) and how as we learn more about animal languages and intelligence we continually shift our definitions of them in order to retain our “superiority.” As Brett says, “Whaddya know? Not much. I don’t even know what knowledge is. I know only the magic . . . and the mysteries.” By turns provocative, profound, hilarious, and deeply moving, this fascinating memoir will remain with the reader long after the last page has been turned.

Brian Brett is the author of Trauma Farm, which won the 2009 Writers’ Trust of Canada Nonfiction Prize, and has written numerous books of poetry and fiction.


A view of the human predicament that is hilarious, sobering and profound. — The Globe and Mail

"There is despair and anger in these pages to be sure but there is also much joy and hope. Life, Brett is saying, is full of wonders. His book helps to remind us why. – Literary Review of Canada

Tuco is an avian odyssey, an homage to strange birds, both feathered and human. The path winds through the gardens of life, through adventure and heartache, with Brett as your eloquent guide, his delightfully mischievous parrot perched on his shoulder. A remarkable story of interspecies companionship. – Charlotte Gill, Author of Eating Dirt

A wonderful gyre of a journey into the mind of man and bird, TUCO is an avian feast of astounding nuggets, tales, and insights. It is also a deep meditation on our place in time and nature: moving, funny, personal yet universal. – Ronald Wright

Viewing Brian Brett’s animal-haunted life through his eyes is a most unusual pleasure. – Former parrot companion and writer, Graeme Gibson

A lovely book full of wonder and defiance, Tuco asks how a new way of seeing ‘otherness’ might heal the planet and ourselves. – Kathleen Winter, author of Boundless

Only a few writers have such a deep life experience as Brian Brett, and we can be grateful that he’s sharing it with us—his humour, his grief, his all-embracing vibrancy, as well as his sharp look at himself and at humankind in general. Through his eyes we observe this likeable, hideous, ridiculous, curious, greedy, warm-hearted and hubristic species that is ours and so regain an almost lost characteristic: modesty in facing all the wonders that surround us. – Jenny Erpenbeck, author of End of Days

Tuco is, at its heart, an account of survival, of the life of the Other, whether in its human or avian form. It’s a beautiful book, rich in both information and emotion, anchored in Brett’s rich, accessible prose and his humble, plain-spoken strength. –Toronto Star

The genius of Brett’s work is twofold: luminous prose and an ability to marry tragedy and comedy. – Vancouver Sun

Tuco is not a straight memoir – it’s something much more wondrously weird. ...A view of the human predicament that is hilarious, sobering and profound. – Globe & Mail

"There are so many profound and provocative ideas in this memoir, I don't hesitate in recommending it." – Barbara Lloyd McMichael

“[Brett’s] writing is so vivid, the observations so telling, that a reader can virtually feel the smooth heft of a collected egg in the palm of a hand or hear the goofy, honking dawn call of the peacock.” —Globe & Mail on Trauma Farm by Brian Brett