Sean Flynn chronicles his first year as a peacock owner, from struggling to build a pen to assisting the local bird doctor in surgery to triumphantly watching a peahen lay her first egg. He also examines the global history of peacocks, from their appearance in the Garden of Eden to their befuddling Charles Darwin to their bewitching the likes of Flannery O'Connor and Martha Stewart.
There’s nothing like senseless violence to prompt a search for meaning, as promised in the subtitle. Through most of the book, though, it doesn’t feel as if Flynn is up to anything so profound ... The writing is often witty, sometimes glorious, and his tales wry and charming. (Though at one point, it seems that Flynn just can’t stop reporting on human barbarity, devoting a chapter to the unsolved torture and murder of peacocks in a suburb of Los Angeles) ... But more is going on here. Something magical happens to this hard-bitten reporter as he gets to know his peacocks ... a fine starting point to finding meaning in a world both cruel and beautiful.
... we can’t help rooting for [Flynn] ... Mr. Flynn’s narrative is quicksilver, darting like a hooked fish from side to side, never losing the line. Beneath the surface flow dark intimations of the writer’s occupation. There are startling plunges into melancholy ... abundant mythology of peacocks, richly explored throughout the book ... could perhaps have only been born out of a global pandemic, a period when almost everything fell apart for everyone. It’s a sparkling confessional from a man who tries to protect the innocent and beautiful from a world that he knows all too well can be relentlessly awful.
Have you ever thought, What my household needs is a few peacocks? Me neither. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying Sean Flynn’s Why Peacocks? An Unlikely Search for Meaning in the World’s Most Magnificent Bird, which details what happened after his family took on some pet peacocks ... [Flynn] he approaches his subject with a science writer’s eye for detail ... The narrative of Why Peacocks? alternates between this family’s story and more journalistic accounts, as Flynn leads us through a natural and cultural history of peacocks, including the evolution of male peacocks’ shimmering feather trains and the roles peacocks have played in religious traditions, making entertaining digressions along the way ... Although this book is a quick read, it’s well researched with an extensive bibliography. Sweet and often funny, Why Peacocks? is an engaging mix of memoir, history and journalism.