Read The Authentic Animal: Inside the Odd and Obsessive World of Taxidermy by DaveMadden Online


Why would someone want to create or own the mounted skin of a dead animal? That’s the question Dave Madden explores in The Authentic Animal. Madden starts his journey with the life story of Carl Akeley, the father of modern taxidermy. Akeley started small by stuffing a canary, but by the end of his life he had created the astonishing Akeley Hall of African Mammals at TWhy would someone want to create or own the mounted skin of a dead animal? That’s the question Dave Madden explores in The Authentic Animal. Madden starts his journey with the life story of Carl Akeley, the father of modern taxidermy. Akeley started small by stuffing a canary, but by the end of his life he had created the astonishing Akeley Hall of African Mammals at The American Museum of Natural History. What Akeley strove for and what fascinates Madden is the attempt by the taxidermist to replicate the authentic animal, looking as though it’s still alive. To get a first-hand glimpse at this world, Madden travels to the World Taxidermy Championships, the garage workplaces of people who mount freeze-dried pets for bereaved owners, and the classrooms of a taxidermy academy where students stretch deer pelts over foam bases. On his travels, he looks at the many forms taxidermy takes—hunting trophies, museum dioramas, roadside novelties, pet memorials—and considers what taxidermy has to tell us about human-animal relationships. The Authentic Animal is an entertaining and thought-provoking blend of history, biology, and philosophy that will make readers think twice the next time they scoff at a moose head hung lovingly on a wall. ...

Title : The Authentic Animal: Inside the Odd and Obsessive World of Taxidermy
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780312643713
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 288 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Authentic Animal: Inside the Odd and Obsessive World of Taxidermy Reviews

  • J.M. Hushour
    2019-04-30 23:58

    Let's start with a quote because either you're gonna love this book...or you're gonna hate it. Let this quote decide for you: "From the back, the buffalo's scrotum swings jauntily to the side, as though the animal were barreling through the grassland, and as his tail is raised the anus is clearly visible, as crisp and articulated as the straw insert on a thirty-two ounce Big Gulp lid."This is how Madden describes a taxidermy installment in a natural history museum. This is exactly the kind of snarky, in-yo-face kind of writing we need and this is why this book had me laughing out loud whilst learning lots of interesting shit I had no clue about. This is History as a wayward adventure across American culture, studying facets of that curious American institution and its pal: hunting and then sticking the head on your wall. It's much more than a history book, though. Madden goes to taxidermy functions, schools, and conventions, often questioning out loud his own purpose in doing so. He's not afraid to pour himself into the book and make fun of his own mania for trophy-collecting CD longboxes.Taxidermy, Carl Akeley, historical taxidermy, novelty taxidermy, even human taxidermy are all discussed here in a breezy manner. That's all well and good, the actual them, but what's most entertaining, enlightening, and refreshing about this book is the collapse of an occassionally-hinted at, hypermodern, "academic", jargon-laden project that Madden had already started out with. When he decides that women might want to be hunters just because, well, hunting is fun to them, he sloughs of his gendering, cockless mantra, and returns to the fold of good old-fashioned telling-it-like-it-is. The book is very stream-of-conscious, though, with Madden pausing throughout to elaborate on his own views or experience. I didn't find this as annoying as I could've. Indeed, the whole read was a bit like just hanging out with this guy getting drunk and listening to him talk about taxidermy. See? This is what makes a winning book. Take note, academes.

  • Taylor
    2019-05-01 03:36

    Random library pick.I read this book due to my fascination with human/animal relationships and taxidermy is one that I haven't experienced/researched. Dave Madden promises the reader a foray into the secret life and history surrounding taxidermy and some of its more prominent figures. However, in spite of Madden's attempts to not make this a biography of Carl Ackley, he does, much to my disappointment. He started off strongly by using figures like Ackley to detail taxidermy's social and commercial presence and relevance over the years which slowly devolves into Ackley's life through chapter after chapter of anecdotes. As an anthropologist, who would have loved to study this as an MA thesis, I would have pursued contemporary interviews further in order to gain insight and perspective on the topic. Madden attempts to do this, and attempts to get a feel for the subject by attending taxidermy workshops, conferences, etc,. yet, he does not successfully answer questions like: what is the appeal of the art? what classifies it as an art generally; is there something in common to all taxidermists, what or what isn't common, for example, what really makes a taxidermist; is this the true way to capture and pay tribute to the life of an animal, like Madden asserts many times (with no explanation of where this came from, really) or is there something inspired by man's dominion over animal? Is it predominantly a westernized practice? Are there any indigenous practices recorded; indigenous opinions on the practice....etc,.Madden lost me further after his brief discussion of animal rights activists and their take on taxidermy, which, in my opinion, was a very rushed discussion that could have occupied a larger discussion of the book instead of Ackley's first wife's monkey love.Additionally, it is VERY, VERY clear that Madden is impartial or indifferent to animals. He clearly sees a distinction that is "us vs. them" and this colours his writing negatively. This is seen in his personal comments here and there about animals but most notably about Mrs Ackely's love for JT. Maybe his research would have revealed more if there was a passion for animals rather than just a general fascination for taxidermy in general. I felt like he was looking at the topic from a clouded, or dirty window... almost like a window shopper; someone not invested in the topic. Maybe I will pursue this as an MA topic just to cite him and professionally counter some of his assertions and opinions with a more comprehensive, academic study of taxidermy.

  • Vanessa
    2019-05-17 00:53

    Really excellent, even though it wasn't exactly what I expected. I imagined this book would be more about taxidermy itself and perhaps modern practitioners and unusual uses of taxidermy, but other than a chapter primarily about the World Taxidermy Championships, it focuses on Carl Akeley - often considered the father of modern taxidermy - and natural history museums. I still loved it. Dave Madden is an excellent writer. His prose can get a bit overwrought at times, but he handles this subject matter with curiosity, humor, and reverence for animal life (I got a bit of a Mary Roach vibe from him at times in his humor and in the way he handled footnotes, so if you're a fan of her writing you might enjoy Madden's as well). The book ends up posing some interesting questions about the ethics of taxidermy and similar practices (plastination), as well as the way we treat animals in our lives in general.

  • Carrie
    2019-05-15 03:46

    Well...this should be interesting. It WAS interesting, funny, provocative. Interesting how taxidermists & biologists tend to leave a swath of dead animals in their path in the name of science or getting the perfect specimen. Think Log from (of?) the Sea of Cortez by Steinbeck, for example. The whole great-white-hunter thing from back in the day was a cringefest to read, with one guy killing hundreds of animals and just leaving them there. He finally saw the light when he killed a family of gorillas. Nice. But, people in the US didn't know much about Africa then & had different ideas about animals. Anyway, The author has a frank, in-the-present style; he's good at seeing and identifying those truthful moments. His poetry-ish/slim-volume-of-esoteric-writing background really started to show in the last chapter & that came across as a tiny bit self-indulgent, but thankfully he's a good writer, so it was okay.

  • Levi
    2019-04-27 07:38

    I think my review would be closer to a 3.5 than a 4, but it's hard for me to say.I have to say the author is thorough with his research, and this is highlighted by his notes on source material at the end of the book. This was nice to see and gave some insight into how the book came together.Madden does a pretty good job of exploring taxidermy from a variety of angles and struggles to come to grips with what exactly it is about taxidermy that so appeals to him and many others. By struggles I mean he works hard to try and untangle it.Like other reviewers have pointed out he uses the biography of the "godfather" of taxidermy Carl Akeley in order to hold the narrative together. Being new to the history of taxidermy, I didn't mind it so much. But I can see where this would bother others. Instead of using the stories of modern taxidermists or other historical figures of importance more (William Hornaday for example), he focuses strongly on the life of Akeley to illuminate the difficulty of taxidermy, its roots, its evolution, what it means to people and the mindset of people who engage themselves with animals in such a way.Overall I think Madden's look at the "odd and obsessive world of taxidermy" is an interesting one and perfect for anyone interested in the art/science of it, as well an exploration of taxidermy in terms of animal human relationships.

  • Christine
    2019-05-07 23:56

    Really excellent writing (if a bit oddly descriptive) and an interesting read. More of a biography of Carl Akeley with some side information on natural history museums and other taxidermy figureheads, but worth the read.

  • Joan
    2019-04-23 03:54

    note to self: notice how the author makes amusing anecdotes about a practice that is taken for granted (taxidermy), yet is probably both hated and revered at once. This book will most likely not get a lot of favorable attention, but yet maybe the author doesn't want that. He might simply want to tell us (in exasperating detail) how this practice came about. However, we don't really talk about it. We'll talk about zoos more than taxidermy. They might even laugh at it. Do we laugh when we see dead carcasses on the side of the road? We don't laugh when we see animals in a museum, but yet we laugh when we see them in a zoo because they make us happy. Is the author trying to make us happy about taxidermy by making fun of it? I wonder. Is he writing for a specific group of people? Will this book cause others to take hunting more or less seriously?Regardless, I wasn't expecting to laugh really hard at the beginning (he talks about taxiderming pets! PETS!) then feel like crying over his observations about what taxidermy means to us ultimately. This book will make me think twice when I see a deer head in a restaurant or visit the natural history museum. But I think those types of things are boring (as do I think it's boring to watch Ben Stiller in Night at the Museum interact with the same things when they are brought to life). But everyone loves zoos; taxidermy seems like it's dying (another reason why the book might have been written) because how many animals can we taxidermy before destroying them?

  • Seth
    2019-05-21 03:05

    This is the first of a bunch of books by my friends that I'll be reading over the next month or two, none of which I'll give star ratings nor say anything bad about, but all the compliments I pay them will be true, like this one: Dave's fun and friendly look at taxidermy is one of the most enjoyable books I've read recently.Most popular niche nonfiction is usually content to introduce us to its topic and ask, like a stranger making small talk at your bar mitzvah table, "Isn't that interesting?" Dave's particular gift as a writer sets The Authentic Animal apart. He notices the complex questions lurking in the vicinity of his subject and to break path to follow them around looking for their answers. Dave wants to ask, and for the reader to help him answer, what the preservation of animal skins says about our relationship to nature, death, memory, and art. Those matters might not be as important as Dave wants them to seem, but you forgive him that when you comes across a sentence like, "As [the buffalo's] tail is raised the anus is clearly visible, as crisp and articulated as the straw insert on a thirty-two-ounce Big Gulp lid."

  • J.A.
    2019-05-21 03:03

    "The difficulty with a great number of books that attempt to catalogue or illuminate a given industry or segment of our society is that they often end up opening more threads than they close, so we read to learn or uncover and yet end up with a bigger reading list of equally interesting secondary sources. But Dave Madden’s The Authentic Animal: Inside the Odd and Obsessive World of Taxidermy avoids this pitfall by selecting the subject of taxidermy, a practice with enough of a lifespan to tell an engaging story and yet such a tight cultural focus that it can be sutured completely (and entertainingly) in a single, well-written book."Read the full review at The Nervous Breakdown:

  • Katie
    2019-05-18 06:40

    I would actually give this 2.5 stars; I'm not sure if some of my problems with it were more a byproduct of my own (perhaps unreasonable) expectations. I do think the title and description of the book are both misleading -- I wanted this to be an examination of taxidermy, both past and present, and the physical process involved in it. I wanted to know what makes taxidermy enthusiasts tick, both in Western cultures and non. And there are very brief sections that kind of explore the "collector mindset", hunting, and novelty taxidermy, but the majority of this book is just an exhaustively-researched biography of Carl Akeley, arguably the father of modern taxidermy practices. As biographies go, I'm sure it's good. It's just not the taxidermy book I wanted to read at all.

  • Linnae
    2019-05-06 07:53

    Probably more than most people ever wanted to know about the art and history of taxidermy. I've never really understood the urge to put an animal head on your wall. I went on a date once with a guy who took me to Cabela's, (an outdoor/hunter's outfitter type mega store) to look at all the dead animals taxidermy. There wasn't a second date.I thought this book might help gain some perspective on it. It did, in a way. I can see a little better why some people would choose to become a taxidermist: to make money, to help advance science (for museums and such), for the challenge and or/artistry. I still think it's kinda creepy.

  • pearl
    2019-05-21 07:56

    Its structure--or lack thereof--made for a rambling and unfocused... well, what was it after all? Not a treatise on taxidermy exactly; rather, a personal account of a man who finds himself entranced by the obsessive magic of a niche art/skill/hobby/business, who, however, never actually partakes in it otherwise. What I wanted was more taxidermy talk itself, more method, exposition, &c. But this wasn't bad of course. The writing thrills with the enthusiasm of someone freshly devoted. It was an enjoyable read.

  • D.A.
    2019-05-19 23:45

    One of my favorite odd histories, and a fascinating quirky intelligently written book. I want to say, "you'll never look at dead animals the same way again," but I really don't know how it is that you look at dead animals. Here, though, one writer's penetrating, intelligent if slightly morbid look at this bizarre human habit of killing creatures and then trying to make them look alive again. Looking forward to Dave Madden's forthcoming book of short stories, "If You Need Me, I'll be Over There."

  • Melody
    2019-05-14 07:06

    Wow. Surprisingly literary, incredibly well-written story of taxidermy. Traces the life of Akeley along with many others, and delves into modern taxidermy rather deeply. Don't read this one if you haven't a strong stomach for viscera, for flesh-eating insects, and above all, for trophy hunting.I don't really know what I expected after picking this up by serendipity in my local library. I only know that I was pleasantly surprised by both the content and the literary quality of this book. Highly recommended.

  • Jeramey
    2019-04-26 00:05

    I read this shortly after reading Blechman's "Pigeons". For whatever reason, I expected them to be much the same. If you're going to read one book outside of your normal subject matter, I would go with Pigeons.This is a good story, but it gets lost at many points along the way. I'm not sure the book is ordered in the most logical way either, with lots of tangents towards and away from its quasi main character.

  • Erin
    2019-05-18 07:47

    Okay, this was a super interesting book on something I never think about. I picked it up because I read a review (in Bookcase I think) and decided it sounded like fun. If you have ever wondered about taxidermy or how we got all these things in museums or even if you are just a bit curious, this is the book for you.

  • Claire Webber
    2019-05-08 00:37

    I read it in a little over three sittings, and throughly enjoyed being buoyed about history, museums, and rural garage skin-shops by Madden. He's a very present narrator who disappears when he isn't called upon, then reappears at the proper moment with a literary, self-aware voice. Fascinating stuff!

  • Kelsey
    2019-05-15 23:48

    3 1/2 stars, really. Extremely readable and full of charming tidbits that make for excellent dinner conversation. Perhaps a little scattered, but my chief complaint was a lack of illustrations. Surely a little insert of color photos could have been added? I ended up googling many of the taxidermy works mentioned.

  • Bridgitte
    2019-04-28 04:02

    A really fascinating, strange book. I picked it up because it includes a history of Carl Akeley, among other things, and it has a ton of great detail. Madden culled a lot of primary sources to piece together a (albeit sometimes overstepping) historical narrative while also contemplating the place of taxidermy and animal-human relationships today.

  • David Rickert
    2019-04-26 23:57

    I haven't the slightest interest in taxidermy, but I read a review of this book somewhere and thought it would be an interesting read. The book didn't disappoint. This is a fascinating look at something that many people find a little strange, perhaps a bit repulsive, but definitely a practice and hobby that is part of our cultural fabric. Very absorbing.

  • Kevin
    2019-05-13 04:04

    An informative, engaging, yet uneven book about the art of stuffing dead animals. It could have used better organization and less mythologizing of taxidermy legends and injections into the narrative by its author. Still, an enjoyable read.

  • Mary
    2019-04-27 03:01

    I enjoyed this book. I found it to be educational and help me understand taxidermy and the people who do it. This book is a great read for anyone who hunts, love animals or just want to understand taxidermy.

  • Andrea Patrick
    2019-04-20 23:43

    If you like Mary Roach's books, you'll probably like this one by Dave Madden. Covers history of, current competitive aspects of, major players in, and influences of taxidermy, particularly in natural history museums.

  • Michelle
    2019-04-27 02:06

    I really found this book an enjoyable read. I learned so much more than I ever realized was out there to learn about the history of taxidermy! It mostly follows the life of Carl Akely who's life makes for an incredible story.

  • Tim
    2019-05-02 02:04

    Madden writes an interesting, balanced perspective on animal rights with the intricacies of the taxidermy hobby.Also a interesting protrayal of early 20th century game hunting and its excesses.

  • Robert Isenberg
    2019-05-22 03:40

    Beautiful work. Odd and funny and surprisingly emotional.

  • Cindy
    2019-05-07 05:54

    This would have been a much better book were pictures included. Plan to read it near a computer so you can google for visuals as you read.

  • Owen
    2019-04-23 02:46

    Interesting read, As someone with an interest in hunting taxidermy fascinates me. This has given me much to think about.

  • Mr. Shoemaker
    2019-05-18 06:47

    Who could have guessed? a fascinating non-fiction book about taxidermy. Beautiful creative non-fiction. Thanks for the recommendation, Mr Rickert!

  • Ashley
    2019-04-22 03:41

    Rec'd on Brain Scoop: