Friday, October 19, 2007

PIGEONS: The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird by Andrew D. Blechman


Pigeons have been worshipped as fertility goddesses and used as
symbols of peace. Domesticated since the dawn of man, they've 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 mankind's 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 pigeon's transformation from beloved friend to feathered
outlaw. Pigeons captures a Brooklyn man's quest to win the Main
Event (the pigeon world's 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 nation�s most famous
pigeon lover, and spends time with Queen Elizabeth�s 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.

Modern Girl Style loved this book! Blechman has made the fabulously unknown story of pigeons into an utterly hip, hilarious, and page turning book! If that's not enough to make you want to read about pigeons, why not listen to this guy who might be one of their biggest fans!


The Interview

1. What made you commit to writing a book about one of the most loved and hated birds today?

It all started with a tuna fish sandwich. I was at a corner bodega in Manhattan ordering lunch at the deli counter when the guy next to me starts telling me about his pigeons. He told me they were "thoroughbreds." That caught me attention. I had never heard of a pigeon described in such terms before. The next day I went out to his brother's place in Brooklyn and checked out the pigeons. They were indeed serious athletes and very impressive. I soon learned that pigeons have unparalleled athletic abilities and an unrivaled history. The more I learned, the more I came to admire the bird, and the more curious I became about the people whose lives revolve around it. I would never have thought that I would spend two years researching and writing about pigeons. But then again, who would have thunk that the Queen of England races pigeons?

2. Why has the reputation of pigeons been in decline for the last five decades? Is there any advice you can give to pigeon-haters that might change their perspective, or at least get them to appreciate pigeons?

Pigeons have been our loyal and beloved companions for nearly 10,000 years. They were worshiped as fertility goddesses in ancient Mesopotamia, and as recently as WW I and II, they were celebrated as heros. One millions pigeons served in the two wars and saved thousands of soldiers' lives by delivering critical messages through barrages of gunfire. And yet, not two decades later, people started to view the bird as an unsanitary pest-like creature. Mind you, this is the first time in human history that pigeons are viewed in a negative light. I believe it has something to do with an increasing obsession with hygiene, as well as the rise of the modern pest control industry which has spent millions of dollars demonizing the bird for business. My advice to those who hate pigeons is this: give them another chance. They're actually very gentle creatures. I suspect it's not the bird that most people have a problem with; it's the number of them. The trick to curbing over-population is simple: feed them less.

3. What authors have inspired your writing style?

I'm inspired by a lot of authors. I read both fiction and non-fiction. I come from a journalism background, so I really appreciate how journalists write as well. I try to make sure that nothing in my books is boring to read. I feel that my readers are my guests and that it is my duty to be a good host. Although I can't say that it has influenced my work, my favorite recent read is the same as many other readers': The Kite Runner.

4. What surprised you the most about researching the history of pigeons?

I was surprised by just how much history these birds have. I could never have imagined that pigeons played a roll at so many critical human events: a pigeon delivered the results of the first Olympics in 776 B.C.E, and 2,500 years later, it was a pigeon that brought word to London of Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo. I hadn't realized that Darwin actually depended on pigeons to support his theory of Evolution, or that the Reuters news empire was founded literally on the wings of pigeons.

5. What was it like attending a pigeon beauty contest? What are the beauty tips of making a pigeon look hot?

The concept of a pigeon beauty contest still makes me laugh to this day, and attending the "Grand Nationals" was definitely a highlight of my reporting for the book. But to the folks who participate in these contests, these events are serious. I met people who have spent decades trying to "perfect" a certain breed of pigeon's color or the way a beak looks. Breeding is a very complicated process and many of these men (most of them are men) are backyard geneticists of sorts. In an age of digi-everything, it's nice to know that true hobbyists still exist. The trick to making a pigeon look hot has nothing to do with skimpy bikinis, but rather with the attainment of near perfect ideals for a particular breed. I saw pigeons there that I never knew existed -- and they were, well, beautiful. I saw pigeons with giant turkey-like fantails, others with corkscrew curly feathers, and still others with sumptuous "upturned collars" worthy of Marlene Dietrich. Who knew?!


I have to say that your book is brilliant! It was a wonderful, humorous, thought-provoking read about something utterly common-the pigeon! What have been some of the more interesting reactions that you’ve received from readers or journalists? Has anyone read your book & converted to loving pigeons?

I've gotten a lot of nice responses from readers. I'm most pleased with the correspondence from people who once hated the bird, but who now look at it in a different light. Most importantly, I've been working with PETA and the Humane Society to bring more humane pigeon control methods to the US (as well as stopping live pigeon shoots). The poisons and caustic gels used to "control" these gentle creatures is cruel and ineffective. Hopefully the book will help bring more attention to a horribly brutalized bird.

If after reading the book you want more, then check out Andrew's collection at Cafe Press! HIs stuff is completely fabulous & fun! In his own words...

Pigeon lovers unite! Show your "pigeon pride" and let people know you
care about this extraordinary yet terribly persecuted little bird.
Pigeon drawing by renowned illustrator R.O. Blechman. (We're not sure
if we're related.) See more at Please keep in
mind that 20% of all profits from the sale of this merchandise will be
donated to humane pigeon control efforts. Learn more about the new book
"Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled
Bird" and author Andrew Blechman at

Pigeons BBQ Apron!!! It's the perfect thing to wear while flipping food on the BBQ!

This is one timeless piece, the mug, that will make your co-workers jealous! That is until they buy one, too!

Get your kids excited about pigeons before the world warps them! The Pigeons Infant Bodysuit is totally adorable.


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