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Kingdom Under Glass: A Tale of Obsession, Adventure, and One Man's Quest to Preserve the World's Great Animals Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 26, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
Perhaps the strongest point of this book is the brilliant way it captures the spirit and culture of the era Carl Akely was born into. The book uses scenes like the Chicago World's Fair with its fascination with industrialization and innovation and its zeal for the strength and promise of a rising United States to paint a vivid illustration of the times. It enhances this with the cast of characters that surround Carl Akely, such as George Eastman, PT Barnum, and Theodore Roosevelt who anchor the place and time in history. Also, the book weaves in the issues of the late nineteenth - early twentieth century natural history, from the millinery trade to the acquisitive nature of Victorian Natural History to the spread of Darwinism to a rising awareness of extinction to Eugenics to the budding conservation movement. Especially startling is the era's perception of the dominance and supremecy of Victorian Gentleman over the primitive cultures of Asian and Africa, and even Eastern Europe.
Against this vibrant backdrop, the author places the story Carl Akely, an amazingly driven and focused man.Read more ›
The story of Carl Akeley(THE taxidermist) is truly a gem. It not only takes place in the guilded age, but keenly focuses on the African safaris of the time, as that age nearly brings them, their big game, and native ways of life, & other entities toward extinction. The author has crafted, not only a wonderfully sensational gem of a story, but one that, unfortunately rhymes too well with today's guilded age, where there are no Carl Akely's, Theodore Roosevelts, and others(that grace these pages), who valiantly try to curb a growing & unsatiable form of destructive capitalism(that would be casino capitalism, in today's vernacular).
The evolution of the museums during this time is expressed in detail through the life span of Carl/But by the mid-1880s not only was the frontier conquered, it was closed. The world had become smaller. Yet inside the smaller world everything was in a fragile union.This ecumenical philosophy would ultimately become the model for all museums. The people of the time were well aware that the bison and passenger pigeon were not coming back.
There are so many stories within this book that are just amazing. For instance, there is the biggest animal of the time, the world famous Jumbo The Elephant. He is killed on railroad tracks by a locomtive! When they opened his stomach they found hatfuls of british pennies, nails, keys, rivets, metal screws, gold and siver coins, pebbles, gravel and one very well masticated police whistle.Read more ›
(After reading this book you'll realize that possession may have been another of Carl Akeley's superpowers).
Even though in his own right Carl was a bit of a superhero, I feel I need to comment on his struggle with being an artist or at least not being recognized as one. In my opinion a true artist would have realized much earlier on that there is no "perfect specimen" that can be caught, as perfection is subjective. His relentless pursuit of the most perfectly aligned creature made me (as an artist) cringe. A true artist would have crafted the perfect specimen from a lesser one or sculpted one from scratch. I think the guilt of not being the artist (the creator), is what turned Carl into the conservationist later in life. My 2¢ only.
Kingdom Under Glass inspired me to write my first book review. What more can be said?
by Jay Kirk
Henry Holt, NY, 2010
I wanted to like this book more than I did. The subject is fascinating: Carl Akeley, the pioneering taxidermist/conservationist who mounted Jumbo the elephant and created the museum diorama, and who also found time to push successfully for the world's first gorilla sanctuary when not hunting with Theodore Roosevelt or strangling a leopard with his bare hands. The strength of the book is the characters: Kirk re-creates a very colorful cast of men and women who supported, opposed, or exploited Akeley throughout his amazing life. Along the way, the reader will learn much about taxidermy and the "safari culture" (my term) of the early 20th century. Kirk succeeds, quite skillfully, in making the reader see, hear, and smell the world of colonial Africa. Clearly, the author did his research.
Kirk spends a lot of time in the Notes section justifying his "creative nonfiction" approach, an approach which makes the book hard to evulate or review. He argues that he was accurate in recreating the thoughts in long-dead people's minds, something he can't know regardless of the depth of his research. Scenes are inaccurately strung together and details invented. He explains he was driven by "commitment to narrative flow," which is not persuasive, seeing as how countless biographers have produced compelling narratives without resorting to fictional techniques. Also, this is a book that demands a good photo section, something that is peculiarly absent.
Bottom line: not all bad, but not what I hoped for when I picked it up.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have just begun to read this book and it has me in its spell. Well written and interesting tale about the boy who loved taxidermy and went on to learn all he could about it and... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Natacha Dannenberg
Kingdom Under Glass by Jay Kirk has passages of incredible beauty, intensity and artistry woven into a fascinating story. Read morePublished 4 months ago by S. Verba
Great book about collecting for Museums. Also a good personal story of those involved and the hardships they faced doing Taxidermy.Published 9 months ago by Carleen Lane
Extremely well written with the feel and voice of being there with Carl Akeley in his pursuits of discovery, perfection and adventure. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Edward C Vincent
I found this book easy to follow. It was a bit disturbing for the most part, but I understand where the author is coming from and chalk it up to the times and what was necessary to... Read morePublished on June 1, 2013 by Eddie Leach
I have loved the habitat dioramas in the American Museum of Natural History's Hall of African Mammals since childhood. Read morePublished on March 22, 2013 by Wayne Mones
Interesting story about early safari expeditions and how they contributed to animal conservation. I found the information about Teddy Roosevelt particularly informative. Read morePublished on June 16, 2012 by displacedoutdoorsman
What a journey into an esoteric world! And that this book reads like an adventure novel and is a biography, without much, if any invented dialogue, is masterful. Read morePublished on March 2, 2012 by Horsekeeping
I've seen a couple other reviews that say that Kingdom Under Glass should be made into a movie. I'd like to second that notion since the book has that rare ability to make you feel... Read morePublished on February 19, 2012 by Mr. Bey