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The Authentic Animal: Inside the Odd and Obsessive World of Taxidermy Hardcover – August 2, 2011


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The Authentic Animal: Inside the Odd and Obsessive World of Taxidermy + The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing (Animalibus: Of Animals and Cultures)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (August 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312643713
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312643713
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #292,684 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Don't let the gory subject matter repel you from this charming account of the cast of kings, artists, biologists, circus performers, and ordinary folks who populate the world of taxidermy. Madden's investigation is marked by appealing candor, literary references, and atmospheric descriptions of (and fondness for) the subculture and its adherents…this book muses with verve and wit on the relationships between human and animal, art and artifact, as well as on the collector's obsession.”– Publishers Weekly

Madden…investigates the subculture of taxidermy…[and] can be a bit tongue in cheek…when he wonders “what would happen if the tables were turned?” and the animals put the humans on display… [A] sometimes chilling tour of an intriguing subculture.  – Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

DAVE MADDEN is a professor at The University of Alabama. He lives in Tuscaloosa and co-edits The Cupboard, a quarterly pamphlet.


More About the Author

Dave Madden is the author of The Authentic Animal, forthcoming from St. Martin's Press. His shorter work has appeared in The Normal School, Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, and elsewhere, and he's the recipient of the Sherwood Anderson Award in fiction, an AWP Intro Journals Award in nonfiction, and a Tennessee Williams Scholarship at the Sewanee Writers' Conference. Currently, he teaches in the MFA program at the University of San Francisco and co-edits The Cupboard, a quarterly pamphlet.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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See all 11 customer reviews
Moving, memorable, and funny.
Brent Spencer
I read Dan Madden's book in only a few days, despite the fact that school projects were looming, Thanksgiving was coming, there was grading to do, and all that.
Skoticus
I found Madden's book to be an elegantly written book.
Br549

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Brent Spencer on August 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I'm not a hunter and don't have an interest in taxidermy, but the great thing about this book is the way the writer makes you care, the way he uses his subject as a way of analyzing human behavior. I had the same experience reading The Authentic Animal as I had when I read John McPhee's Oranges. Who cares about oranges? Well, McPhee makes you care. And Madden makes you care about taxidermy in this offbeat and wry commentary on what it means to be a human animal. Moving, memorable, and funny.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Br549 on November 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I found Madden's book to be an elegantly written book. After reading Mary Roach's STIFF: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers, I crave books like this. I would place this book within the same medical/scientific non-fiction sub-genre. While Roach's voice is more personable, I find Madden's research to prove more thorough and authoritative. While it is nice to have a friend along when reading books like this, I'd much rather have a well-researched guide to lead me through the excavated exhibits of his research.

The insight into the history of taxidermy allows you to see the evolution of the art, but Madden also garnishes the book with an ethnographic exploration of this art's culture. While you get a glimpse into the techniques and media used to preserve everything from animals and humans, you also get a glimpse into the lives of those who preserve them.

I am giving this book 5 stars.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Bozter on November 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I stumbled upon this delightful book while researching for my undergraduate thesis. Now just because I'm an Fine Art Photography major, do not think that this book has been of little use! oh no! This book was so inspirational and pivotal in my research that it truly changed the direction of my entire point of view towards animal preservation and how to make art work about it. I was once blindly disgusted by taxidermy's existence, but Dave Madden showed me a new world in his book, telling me the history of taxidermy and his own experiences with the world of taxidermy from a spectator's standpoint. The book is written in such a friendly and unusual (for the subject) manner that has the feeling of going to a cafe with a friend and engaging in a unexpectedly profound conversation.

This book is for those who know hardly anything about taxidermy to discover a world they thought they had an opinion of who seek a stepping off point for learning. This book is probably not for those who work in the taxidermy business as much as those who do not.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Biotexts2 on May 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover
As someone who has done a considerable amount of taxidermy and preparation/curation of museum specimens, I looked forward to this book as a treatment of the subject from a psychological perspective. While some historical background is useful, the return to Ackley again and again was annoying, since the author was obviously copying material published elsewhere. The fact that he didn't even try to make a mount seems hypocritical and his demeaning rationale doesn't ring true. I most enjoyed the discussions of novelty taxidermy and the preservation of pets. These areas would seem the best material to use in considering the psychology of people who desire such bizarre creations. I found it also bizarre that the author would try to write an entire book (with much off-topic filler and repetition) about a subject he claims to be obsessed with, yet doesn't deviate from his position as a somewhat disgusted observer.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I liked this books approach to taxidermy. A little more cynical and less of a praise of taxidermy. Very interesting. A quick read too!
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Format: Hardcover
Though famous American taxidermist Carl Akeley is featured prominently throughout Madden's book, this is more than just a selective biography of his work. It's an engaging account of taxidermy history, albeit with perhaps too many atypical examples (the current pet taxidermy trend) and not-quite-even-taxidermy digressions (Ed Gein, BodyWorlds).

Madden has done his homework. He's consulted Akeley's biographies, sifted through some archives, interviewed taxidermists and natural historians, and acquainted himself with the secondary literature on the history of taxidermy. I like the way the author uses this material to re-create likely conversations among the historical figures. He's also the kind of author who reflects just enough on his own research process to give the reader the feeling that he/she is following right along on the path of discovery. Sometimes, however, there's not enough of a connection between the details about Akeley's career and contemporary examples. And at times, I found Madden's writing to need better editing--some of the footnotes seemed superfluous, some passages seemed overly self-indulgent, and sometimes I was distracted by errant usages and wrong words.

Overall, though, this was an entertaining read that gave me a greater appreciation for Akeley's contribution to American natural history display and later in life, his changing attitude toward wildlife management and conservation.
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