Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pigeons (copy)

The book claims either you love them or you hate them. I would have to say, before my Italian trip, I was indifferent. It took a couple of days in San Marco Square to knock me off the fence. After watching them huddle around diners and rush anyone chewing, I quickly surmised they were icky. Pigeons otherwise known as rats with feathers made my skin crawl.

This weekend my whole attitude changed after reading Pigeons by Andrew D. Blechman. He has written a fascinating, I kid you not, book about these common birds. His tone is light and humorous with interesting stories to lure the reader. The introduction leads with an anonymous quote, “Some days you’re the pigeon. Some days you’re the statue.” Amen.

My heart was won after reading the story of the “Lost Battalion” of World War One. Apparently the 77th Division of the U.S. Army was trapped behind German lines in the Argonne Forest. Overnight, their division numbers dwindled to 200, and as the day began they were bombarded with friendly fire from 25 miles away.

Faced with sure death and no way to communicate with friendly forces, they brought out their rock doves. This battalion, such as the habit of Army foot soldiers, carried baskets of rock doves into battle with them. The first two feathered scouts were shot down by the Germans before ever orienting to their home base.

The third, Cher Ami, carried a desperate plea, “Our artillery is dropping a barrage on us. For Heaven’s sake, stop it!” Vulnerable to the rifle shots as the first two birds, Cher Ami headed back down to earth, but before impact he pushed out his wings and caught a gust of air. He climbed, then climbed some more, and to the amazement of the soldiers he flew out of rifle range.

Twenty minutes later, a blood covered Cher Ami lay on his back at headquarters. “One eye and part of the cranium had been blown away, and its breast had been ripped open.” He lived another year and was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for his “courageous persistence.” (His mangled-stuffed body can be seen at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.)

Yes, you may not think this is a potboiler and you may think I’m a crackpot for suggesting it, but I do hope you give it a try. Oh, and if you don’t fall in love with these fine-feathered friends, Blechman includes a Pigeon Pot Pie recipe.


raidergirl3 said...

oh, San Marco square, is that the one in Venice? Because I thought all those pigeons were disgusting. And the people letting them climb all over them? Yuck
But the book sounds interesting.

maggie moran said...

One, in the same! I got a chill just picturing the scene you described. :D

Anonymous said...

Great book list. AM tempted to read Pigeons! Maybe you'll like this book site. It's a great resource!

Isabel said...

I still don't like them too much. They go into Victoria Station and the the main rail station in Glasgow and try to eat anything. There is a danger of getting your clothes dirty.

The ones in England and Scotland are fatter than the ones in New Orleans.

Debi said...

Oh, I am so glad you wrote this. I'd heard about this book (maybe on NPR?) and really wanted to read it. So did my daughter. But I'd forgotten all about it. Time for me to go write it down this time!

maggie moran said...

WW100, I guess those English pigeons are eating better trash than our Naw'lins pigeons. Hard to believe with all the red beans and rice. ;D

Debi, I do hope y'all enjoy Pigeon. After reading Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, it was a natural next read for me. :)

Anonymous said...


thank you for your kind words about my book. I hope your readers enjoy it as well.

-- Andrew

maggie moran said...

OMG! Thanks for stoping by! You need to keep writing, I mean, you have a gift if you can get anyone to read a 200+ page book on pigeons! That's talent! :D

I'm looking forward to your next subject...

Anonymous said...


I'm blushing! And I'm still writing. My next manuscript is almost done and will be released by Grove Press next year. It's called "GERITPIA: Adventures in a World Without Children." It's still totally off the radar, so you're about the first book blogger/reviewer to hear about it.

Thanks again for your generous review. My very best wishes, Andrew

Anonymous said...

Ooops. That's "GERITOPIA." (told you it was new...!)