Author: Adam Cornish
Pages: paperback, 96 pages
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Release: September 2, 2014
As someone who wasn't aware of the @craptaxidermy Twitter account before receiving this ARC, I based my initial impression off the marketing connected to Much Ado about Stuffing: The Best and Worst of @craptaxidermy. I felt a bit of terror in my fingertips -- was I about to see That Which Cannot Be Unseen? Would there be creepy-crawlies so grotesque I would want to slam the book shut -- as best you can slam a thin, postcard-sized paperback -- and never near a forest again? Would I forever feel an awkward element in my relationship with my cat, with me always imagining him on a wall mount and him wondering why I keep spending way too much time scritching through his fur with a loupe?
Fortunately, Much Ado... does not traumatize at all, even for those of us who mute the television the second we hear Sarah MacLachlan start up. ("In the arms of an angel / may you cry through the rest of this 3 AM House rerun...") First-time author Adam Cornish provides relatively light gallows humor through his one- to two-line captions accompanying the wild shots he's selected, which were all submitted to his Twitter feed by his followers. The animals (specimens? figures?) look so ridiculous that you will laugh far more than you'll be grossed out. The eyes in particular are ripe for comedic dissection (sorry), with a few looking like little more than marbles or perhaps gumballs. I'm also 90% certain I saw some human hair on one fox, which somehow seemed fitting in this collection of, well, crap. There's a polar bear that made me bust out laughing as it startled me with its sheer ridiculousness, and I loved what I can only refer to as "the creature on page 24." (Really, someone tell me if that's an otter, or a turtle, or what, because I am so lost.) And page 76...where, precisely, is the face? This is where the discerning reader should note that you should never have to ask the question "where is the face" when viewing photographs of taxidermy. And that's the fun of the book.
The one thing that confused me from the very beginning was the fact that some of the examples actually looked really good. (Prepare to be delighted, fellow Breaking Bad fans.) I kept staring at some because I thought I had to be missing some type of egregious error by the taxidermist that perhaps I wasn't knowledgeable enough to catch. After all, it's got "crap" written all over it, the cover image is of a truly heinous-looking...once-fox, and the write-ups all emphasized the fact that the whole concept of the Twitter feed -- and therefore the book -- is to highlight, in the words of the publisher, "abominations of nature." But when you read the end credits, you see several professional taxidermists thanked for making the really nice -- and honestly very creative and cool -- examples for the book. The end result is that the book feels a bit confused about its own identity. Next time, Cornish should consider making a separate not-crap volume in order to avoid the repeated jolt from am-I-laughing to am-I-admiring.
Much Ado about Stuffing has some great moments; oddly enough, they tend to come from the staged great examples. (High-paw to the true artist behind the raccoon family. Delightful work.) At under 100 pages, with an uneven tone and sometimes cheesy jokes (including a predictable closer), Cornish's first effort will appeal primarily to pre-existing fans of @craptaxidermy and those with a fondness for the burgeoning meme-lit category. A portion of the proceeds from sales go to (living) animal care causes. And my cat will go into a tasteful urn like my beloved past ones did -- no taxidermy, crap or otherwise.
- Much Ado about Stuffing: The Best and Worst of @CrapTaxidermy, available at Amazon, CrapTaxidermy.com, and in bookstores