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Still Life

Adventures in Taxidermy

by Melissa Milgrom

Still Life by Melissa Milgrom

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There are currently 18 reader reviews for Still Life
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Power Reviewer Daniel A. (Naugatuck, CT) (01/06/10)

Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy
I was pleasantly surprised after reading this book; the last hundred pages were the best and justified my high rating. I now have a basic knowledge of the art of taxidermy just in case it ever pops up in a conversation.
Heather K. (Brooklyn, NY) (01/03/10)

Taxidermy is Not for Sissies ...
and neither is this book! Melissa Milgrom shatters the images that taxidermists are ghoulish or perverse (but eccentric, yes, definitely, collectively ... eccentric!). She finds they admire animals intensely, and gives an exclusive look into a world of men and women who are zealous in perfecting how they preserve and display animals.

Taxidermists are beyond "dedicated": they're down-right obsessed with their art, and absolutely exacting with the science in how they achieve perfection. Why is this book not for sissies? Because the chapters on her stuffing a squirrel are excruciating to read -- in a good way! I'm all for journalistic integrity, but the book was falling flat for lack of any real involvement on the author's part. Finally our author gets her hands dirty (well, bloody) as she skins and mounts a squirrel for competition.
Milgrom does not leave out any details during this ordeal. I felt like I was standing next to her, cringing with every cut and snip! By the end of the competition, and thus the book, I felt much more satisfied with the read as whole!
Sheryl R. (DeQuincy, LA) (01/02/10)

Unexpectedly complex and compelling
Melissa Milgrom's comprehensive book on taxidermy and its practitioners tells you more than you ever thought you'd want to know about this strange and exacting world. Milgrom immerses herself, both figuratively and literally, in the study of taxidermy and presents a complex world in which nature, art, science, biology, history, politics, sculpture, and even psychology and competition all collide and intertwine to create a compelling puzzle of a vanishing practice. Her portrayals of the institutions and individuals involved in the field are multi-faceted and show the evolution of the practice of taxidermy over time. This book will not be for everyone, but for readers who like to be surprised with learning about things they didn't know they wanted to learn (like me!), this is the book!
Susan S. (Lakeville, MA) (01/01/10)

I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would.
The book is about taxidermy and I requested it to review out of morbid curiosity. My opinions of taxidermists have not been favorable, but this book changed my mind. I now believe that they are both scientists and artists. The book is well written, well organized and entertaining. It is not overly technical and while always very respectful of the profession, it is often humorous. If you have every visited a natural history museum (especially the American Museum of Natural History in New York City) you will enjoy reading about how the dioramas in these museums are created and the amount of skill that is required to create them. My impression of the book can be summed up by the author's own words when she was attending a taxidermy trade show and she watched a demonstration "amazed and bewildered." Me, too.
Suri F. (Durham, NC) (01/01/10)

Coulda, Shoulda, ...
For the most part, this book felt like an unedited set of lists. It seemed she took the advice of one of her subjects, and put it all out without worrying about the story. The only really interesting section is her own attempts to preserve a squirrel. I have read any number of books about natural history, that have successfully conveyed the passion of museum people for their subjects, the shifting interest of the viewing public, and the odd connections between seemingly disparate ideas. This wasn't one of them.

Just what did the editors do in putting this book together?
Anne B. (Fredonia, WI) (12/30/09)

If you like the strange...
If you think the title is odd, wait until you meet the characters of this off-hand, fascinating read. Stuffed animal lovers, lovers of the creepy, odd and whatever is opposite of the chick-book, read this, really. It will take you into another world you really never planned on going to, but will glad once you've arrived.
Jane N. (Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey) (12/30/09)

Watching You!
If you ever thought that the stuffed head in your grandparents' house was watching every move you made, you will enjoy reading this book.They could be watching you! Ms. Milgrom goes into great detail about the art of taxidermy and the pains that the people who do it go to to make the animals life like. Her sections on museum dioramas is wonderful. She has taken a dull subject and brought it to life. A bonus for the book would be the inclusion of more photos. There is only one in the book and that is not labeled. Overall a decent read.
Power Reviewer Becky H. (Chicago, IL) (12/29/09)

interesting but flawed
I really wanted to like this book. The people discussed were interesting. The topic of taxidermy is so odd that it in itself is interesting. The references to the Smithsonian, historical museum exhibitions and dioramas were compelling. (I'm a docent at a well known history museum.) Unfortunately the writing was so bad I found myself paying so much attention to the writing - wandering chronology, paragraphs with several subjects or no subject at all, incomprehensible sentences, and strange metaphors - I could not attend to the subject and often exceptional information. This book needs a good editor. There is a good book here, you just can't find it.
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