Monday, August 16, 2010

Still Life: adventures in taxidermy

by Melissa Milgrom

I was going to complain about finding "Bilboa" where it should have said "Bilbao," but it's been too long since I read this book for me to muster the necessary indignation, or to recall why this particular mistake was the straw that broke my back, or if it was emblematic of some steadier thread of idiocy.

Thinking about it now, I just recall an informative, entertaining and reasonably well written book about the history of taxidermy (curiosity cabinets, natural history museums, etc.) and the contemporary culture of artistic animal preservation. I didn't care much for the chapter about the woman who does dead animals for Damien Hirst, mostly because I think he's a hack; the woman in question is actually quite an interesting character in her way. The book presents a fair number of additional oddballs and plenty of bizarre historical details. (If you happen to be at an estate sale and see a diorama of stuffed kittens in an old-fashioned schoolroom, or some similar freakishness, buy it for me and I'll pay you back!)

Not a great book, but solid. If you read voraciously, go for it. If you're only going to read a few books this year, you can do better.

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