Pigeons have been worshipped as fertility goddesses and used as symbols of peace. Domesticated since the dawn of man, theyve been used as crucial communicators in war by every major historical superpower from ancient Egypt to the United States and are credited with saving thousands of lives. Charles Darwin relied heavily upon pigeons to help formulate and support his theory of evolution. Yet, without just cause, they are reviled today as rats of the sky. How did we come to misunderstand one of mankinds most helpful and steadfast companions?
Author Andrew D. Blechman traveled across the United States and Europe to meet with pigeon fanciers and pigeon haters in a quest to chronicle the pigeons transformation from beloved friend to feathered outlaw. Pigeons captures a Brooklyn mans quest to win the Main Event (the pigeon worlds equivalent of the Kentucky Derby), as well as a pigeon breeders convention dedicated to breeding the perfect bird. Blechman participates in a pigeon shoot where entrants pay $150 to shoot live pigeons; he tracks down Mike Tyson, the nations most famous pigeon lover, and spends time with Queen Elizabeths Royal Pigeon Handler in England; and he sheds light on a radical pro-pigeon underground in New York City. In Pigeons, Blechman tells for the first time the remarkable story behind this seemingly unremarkable bird.
Some days youre the pigeon. Some days youre
the statue. - Anonymous
For much of my life, I didnt have a strong opinion about pigeons. At best, I found their incessant bobbing and waddling mildly charming to watch as I walked through the streets of New York City. It was my college girlfriend who first alerted me to their nefarious lack of hygiene. They may look harmless, she informed me, but theyre actually insidious carriers of hidden filth - rats with wings - that eat garbage off the streets and crap in their own nests.
Lamenting the citys lack of wildlife, I hung a bird feeder from the fire escape outside my barred windows in an effort to attract songbirds to my apartment. The feeder didnt attract robins or cardinals, but it was popular with pigeons. They flocked to my fire escape, landing in friendly, cooing clusters. They were animated, fun to watch, and they kept me company as I ...
Blechman is at his strongest when relating stories of pigeon prowess in wartime; another high point is the chapter that elaborates on the methods used by cities to control pigeon populations, humanely or otherwise. However, from time to time the level of detail he brings into his first person reporting (which forms the majority of the book) can be a little wearisome. Putting that aside, this is an entertaining read and a must for pigeon aficionados.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (1197 words).
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