Terye B. (Scotts Valley, CA)
By the skin of their teeth
It's enjoyable reading and learning about a topic you haven't read about before. That's what I thought as I started this book. The book would have been better suited being told in some sort of linear fashion. I enjoyed the first chapter quite a bit, but the continuous back and forth of time periods, of museum and convention and personal interviews was jarring and repetitious. Throughout the book the author hints that she will attempt taxidermy herself, under the tutelage of seasoned professional. When the event finally comes (toward the end of the book) I had become bored and my interest in the beauty and science of the profession was waning. While i enjoyed the facts that were presented, I would have preferred a more familiar tone, and I would have loved to see pictures of the displays she discussed. I go away with an appreciation of the craft of taxidermy, and wished that i could also appreciate the authors craft of writing.
Lola T. (Broken Arrow, OK)
Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy
I grew up in the Midwest where hunting and fishing were not only acceptable but imperative activities, if you were to be admitted into many circles. So the subject matter of taxidermy wasn't one that was going to be a turn-off, in fact, I was looking forward to reading it, thinking that maybe, just maybe, Still Life would be that genius gift for the men in my life. I wish I could be gushing in my praise of the book, but that is not the case. Although the actual writing of the book was well-done, I just had to struggle to get through the book. There just wasn't that "pull" that a reader feels to want to read the next page and then the next. I guess the whole premise of a writer taking time off to follow taxidermists around just lacked that spark. She wrote well, but nothing enticed me to go ahead and read the next chapter. The book might appeal to taxidermists and perhaps natural scientists, but beyond that I can't see book clubs or very many people reading this book just for the pleasure of it.
Donna W. (Hamilton, NJ)
This is an interesting look at the historical significance of taxidermy, and one woman's journey trying to master, not only the craft but the art. As the masters try to preserve not only the physical presence but also the essence of their subjects, she comes to appreciate their struggle.
This would be an interesting read for a student looking for a good essay topic for English.
Sande O. (Rochester, NY)
I have always found taxidermy fascinating. A little strange perhaps, but interesting. I spent 8 years in grad school at the University of Wyoming so I get the "trophy" aspect of "stuffing" animals, and I remember the museum dioramas from childhood and I've read about Victorian's fascination with personal collections is species. That being said, what motivates modern day taxidermists? Are there many left? Are they all like Norman Bates from Psycho?
Armed with these questions and a healthy curiosity, I was drawn to Melissa Milgrom's book on the subject. What I got were a lot of answers, but much more.
The author covers the gamut of these artists/technicians and along the way gives the reader insight into the field, the science, the history, the eccentricities and the politics that make up this field. There is a lot more to preserving animals than one might suppose and Milgrom takes the time to become a participant in the process as well as an observer. If you like to venture outside your comfort zone once in while, give this a try. Altogether Still Life is a riveting read.
Sharon W. (Two Rivers, WI)
This was a very interesting book and a learning experience. The book was about Taxidermy. I knew what taxidermy was but never realized how much went in to it. This is an art. The people involved in taxidermy take it very serious. They even have contests.
If you are up for a learning experience, I would definitely recommend this book.
Fred S. (san diego, CA)
I thought it was a great book. It brought back my own memories of the sights and smells of the shop which I hung out in when a boy.
Penny N. (Saginaw, MI)
Yikes! Still Life and it's stuffed
I chose this book because I knew nothing about it's subject matter except for the fact I never enjoyed the final product staring at me. Now that I have read the book I know a lot about the subject matter but feel no less of an aversion. However, this book is well written, well researched and I commend the author on her exacting work. No matter if you're fan or foe you will end up angry at taxidermy and what happened at the Smithsonian, as a man is allowed to "buy" his way to trophies. You will marvel at the extent some will go to be the best or even the most creative. Some start with road kill. What's funny is most practitioners will not "recreate" pets. Others go back to the Audubon method: he killed them, to stuff them, to draw them. If you can get past the "chill factor" this is an interesting look at life after death. By the end even the author gets into the act.