What I Covet Most


Ok ravishing readers ... I've just received two advance reader copies of my book, The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing.  Now, although the cover is exactly as in the image below, advance reader copies don't show the book in its full splendour -- the images are only in black and white, the paper is less than slick -- but if you’d like a peak at the book before its actual release in August, here's your chance.

In 350 words or less, tell me this: What piece of taxidermy do you most covet? 

If you could have anything, what would it be?  Maybe you've always wished for one of Thomas Grünfeld's fraudulent animal creations.  Maybe you’d like to run away with a quagga. Would you take a slice of history with Dolly the cloned sheep?  Or perhaps one of the man-eating Tsavo lions?

If you have an image, fabulous.  If not, just tell me what you covet and why.  I’ll post the best entries online, and the two lucky winners will get their very own advance reader copy. Contest closes July 9 -- that's only a few weeks away, so get writing! 

Send me your entries at ravishingbeasts@gmail.com



Writing Contest: What I Covet Most

I am very pleased to announce the winners of the Writing Contest "What I Covet Most."  A huge thank you to all writers.  Mermaids made more than one appearance along with extinct species.  In no particular order, the two winners are:

Mandy Leetch

Stephanie Turner


Winner receive an Advance reader copy of my book The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of LongingCongratulations to all!  Winning entries are posted below and read other entries here + 


Writing Contest: What I Covet Most ... 

From Stephanie S. Turner:

As a kid trying to win a stuffed animal prize at the county fair, I always went for the rattiest one on display.  The more battered, chewed-up, and neglected-looking it was, the less it resembled whatever animal it was supposed to be, the more I wanted it.  For this reason I’m attracted to “vegan” taxidermist Robert Marbury’s photographs of “strapped animals” attached to trucks, as in “Grill Coyote” (below), as well as a lot of “crappy taxidermy” in general. 

I’m especially drawn to tatty old taxidermy that a museum or private collector just hasn’t gotten around to throwing out yet.  So my number-one choice would have to be the “Blair Atholl” polar bear from Bryndis Snæbjörnsdóttir and Mark Wilson’s project Nanoq: Flatout and Bluesome (below).  Although it does still look like a bear, its coat color seems all wrong for a  polar bear, its ears appear to have been chewed off, its eyes seem missing, and its mouth—well, let’s just say its entire muzzles looks to have been sheared off at some point and haphazardly reattached.  Yet this taxidermy manages to maintain all its original gravitas, in my view.  The only caveat is, I don’t necessarily want to own the bear itself, just the photograph.  It is perfect in its present habitat.


Writing Contest: What I Covet Most

By Amy Freeborn

Like ancient and medieval mythologists and Victorian curiosity collectors before me, I have a soft spot for mermaids.

I spent my formative years living by the beach, so the idea of being able to swim unhindered by lungs that need air to absorb oxygen was a fantastical one.

When I caught a glimpse on a TV program recently of what purported to be a mummified mermaid on display at the British Museum in London, I had to go and see it for myself.

Located in the Enlightenment Gallery, the merman, as the gallery plaque explains, was said to have been caught in Japan in the 18th century.

It was gifted to Prince Arthur of Connaught (the son of Queen Victoria) by someone called Seijiro Arisuye, and donated to the Museum by the Prince’s wife after his death in 1942.

The mer-mummy doesn't look like the creature of beauty that folklore has made mer-people out to be. In fact, it is kind of scary and ferocious-looking.

And that is probably because modern science and X-rays have proved that it is not the physical specimen of proof mermaid believers have been seeking for centuries, but a composition of the upper part of a monkey's body and the tail of a fish.

But I suppose it is a testament to the allure of the sea siren, and our want to believe, that even when taxidermically rendered grotesque, the mer-mummy is still a coveted treasure.

And while it has been categorically stated by authorities that "no evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found", I still fantasise about the underwater freedom of being a mermaid; and back in the real world, would quite like a mer-mummy of my own.


Writing Contest: What I Covet Most 

From Cindy Phan,

Listen, OK?

There is this place in Banff, in Alberta, Canada that has a Thing you must see, if in fact you want to see it.  It’s not mentioned in tourist pamphlets and it’s not on any map you’ll find up there.  It’s an open secret that, it seems, the locals either chuckle knowingly at or ignore completely.  Keeping up appearances, letting it slide to slip it right back in.

As you enter town via the TransCanada Highway, turning left onto Mount Norquay Road, follow it as it turns into Gopher Street, then Lynx Street and, finally, Bear Street. Take the left onto Buffalo Street, then a right on Banff Avenue. 

 All the way down, keep going, across the bridge.  Take the right.  Birch Avenue.  Cave Avenue. 


   Enter the doors between the totem poles.  You’re welcome.

Keep going.  Past the bisected goats and the mounted moose heads.  To the back, keep going back! Away from the snarling wolves and scattered fowl and frozen pronghorns, but close to the grizzly that once embraced a nervous Marilyn Monroe.

Towards the opposite wall, following the dangling dreamcatchers along the way. 

Look down, down

Below, and you’ll find it.

It may not be a real mermaid.  It may be a fake mermaid (or merman), if in fact mermaids (or mermen) are real.  It’s real; fake.  Fiji mermaid, “FeeJee Mermaid”, though maybe it’s from Japan.  Half-fish, half-simian-Thing; some papier-mâché, perhaps?  Well.  Its presence is undeniable even if its reality is an open question.  It is a creature with at least a kind of existence to call its own.  Just there, creeping around the periphery.  Promising you things that it may not have to promise you at all.  Unless you want it to.

Even if you don’t, it’s there.

Petrified.  Unconcerned.  Busy.

And anyway. 

I want it.  I want that Thing. 


Writing Contest: What I covet most 

From Mandy Leech:

The death of Deyrolle was devastating news. The thought of such a magnificent collection burning to the ground, 90% of the haunting beauty lovingly created and curated in the 177 year old shop lost in a single event brought me to tears.

And yet...

I look at the beautiful decay left behind, and realize that this is the taxidermy I most covet. Like something you can't bear to throw away, it is a ruin of modern times.

While there is a certain magnificence to the chard zebra remains which typifies the results of the Deyrolle fire, I find myself particularly drawn to this cabinet of birds. It is fragile and delicate and broken and heartrendingly beautiful; I long for it.