I've always had an odd fascination with taxidermied animals...Maybe it stems from my childhood crush on dinosaurs & my associated yearning to become a paleontologist, or perhaps it's because my dad was a somewhat avid hunter who had one of his deer heads mounted and placed directly above our living room TV. It used to stare down at us day after day and every Christmas we put a Santa hat on it. It did not seem amused.
With all of that said, I never acquired a taste for hunting and never went down the all too creepy path of scraping roadkill off the road and reassembling it in my bedroom. I simply enjoyed nature from afar, reading books about extinct & endangered species, drooling over Jurassic Park, tracing pictures of dinosaur bones, and visiting museums from time to time.
Alas, my childhood dreams of becoming a paleontologist never came to fruition and as an adult I must continue to live vicariously through movies and literature...and this my friends is what drove me to read Still Life. As a fan of Mary Roach (author of "Stiff") I am continuously on the prowl for off the wall non-fiction books that delve into odd & peculiar topics. One day while aimlessly surfing the web I stumbled upon Still Life, it's cover adorned with a taxidermied fox, and I was instantly enthralled.
Having just finished the book I can definitely say that it was a worthwhile read. While I've always found stuffed animals interesting, this interest has always been accompanied by a certain level of creepiness. Let's face it, the idea of someone spending countless hours skinning, scraping, tanning, stretching, molding, brushing, and sewing animal corpses is freaking bizarre, but somehow Melissa Milgrom manages to make this obscure art form seem somewhat appealing.
This book is packed with some very interesting history on the early days of taxidermy and the lengths that museums and collectors would go to fill their halls and glass cases to the brim with creatures from all across the globe. It also contains an odd yet endearing cast of modern day taxidermists who own shops, work for museums, and compete in international taxidermy competitions. Finally, we are introduced to the somewhat gory, yet surprisingly interesting details of the actual techniques that are used to produce these works of art.
When all is said and down I definitely have a new found appreciation for taxidermists and the painstaking efforts they undergo to recreate life as accurately as possible. Now this is not to say that you'll find me stuffing an opossum or squirrel anytime soon but the next time I make my way into a museum you may see me lingering a tab bit longer next to the stuffed moose with the big rack.
I can only hope that my one star rating will help nudge this book's overall rating below 4 stars because as it stands now it is severely inflated and misleading...So much so that initially I had no doubt in my mind that I would find some level of enjoyment in the book. My dear PaperBackSwap friends, this is the first time you have lead me astray.
I'm not a book snob by any means, and typically I can find at least something enjoyable with each book I crack open, but this is by far the worst book I've read in ages. As I sit hear reading through all of the 4 and 5 star reviews I shake my head and wonder if we were reading the same book?
A few things that really bothered me about this book (without giving away the story for all of you poor misguided souls who managed to read this review and STILL decide to read this book):
- Dekker must have loved M. Night Shyamalan's "The Sixth Sense" so much so that he decided to fill a 352 page novel with a gazillion plot twists. I'm all for a good twist here and there but Teddy you went severely overboard with this book. By about page 225 it grew tiresome and I really didn't care anymore. Hell, the only reason I finished reading the book was simply because I'm not one to leave a book semi-read, regardless of how horrific it is.
- Teddy please listen closely to this one. Grown adults do not call someone that they despise and want to murder a "puke face" in an attempt to insult them. Now I understand that you are a Christian author but if you want to be taken even somewhat seriously in a book like this the least you could do was throw in a good "asshole", "bitch", or "mother fucker" every once and a while.
- Finally (trust me I could go on and on and on but I've already devoted way too much time to this atrocity already), the story is just plain ridiculous. Once all the dust settles, and the gazillion twists are untwisted, Teddy haphazardly tries to make all of the events seem credible but to no avail.
A few good things about this book:
- I did find the story of Kevin's strange upbringing somewhat intriguing, but that was before Teddy ruined it all. Damn you Teddy.
- It's a quick read so while it will definitely be a waste of your time it won't waste too much time. That's a plus right?
What a great book...it's just a shame that it took me 30 freaking years to get around to reading it!
Having grown up in a small, virtually all White town in Northeastern Pennsylvania I wonder how profound of an impact this book would have had on me had I read it when I was a wee lad & saw the world in a completely different way than I do today. This is not to say that I did not find this book meaningful, but rather as you get older you'll most likely experience many of the life lessons that are captured within the book. With that said, I'll definitely make it a point to have my children read this book when they are growing up, whenever I decide it's time to take the terrifying plunge into fatherhood that is... ;)
Harper Lee does a spectacular job of telling the story through the innocent eyes of a young girl named Scout. Scout's unbridled curiosity, her naive view of the world around her, & her difficulty distinguishing good vs. bad takes me back to the days when I was young and had an untainted view of the world around me...When all I worried about was if it would be hot enough each day of summer to go swimming and whether or not my team would win each baseball game we played on the local firehouse's parking lot. Alas, we all grow up and while I did not experience anything nearly as dramatic as what Scout went through, her experiences definitely resonated within me.
TKAM is a story about growing up and seeing the world for what it truly is. It's about the evils of racism and the strong bonds of family & friends. It's about sticking odd little trinkets in trees for your curious neighbors to discover. And it's about scuppernong.