Synopses & Reviews
With unique fish-like tails, chainsaw teeth, a pungent musk, and astonishing building skills, beavers are unlike any other creature in the world. Not surprisingly, the extraordinary beaver has played a fascinating role in human history and has inspired a rich cultural tradition for millennia.and#160;and#160;In Beaver
, Rachel Poliquin explores four exceptional beaver features: beaver musk, beaver fur, beaver architecture, and beaver ecology, tracing the long evolutionary history of the two living species and revealing them to be survivors capable of withstanding ice ages, major droughts, and all predators, except one: humans.and#160;
Widely hunted for their fur, beavers were a driving force behind the colonization of North America and remain, today, Canadaand#8217;s national symbol. Poliquin examines depictions of beavers in Aesopand#8217;s Fables, American mythology, contemporary art, and environmental politics, and she explores the fact and fictions of beaver chain gangs, beaver-flavored ice cream, and South Americaand#8217;s ever-growing beaver population. And yes, she even examines the history of the sexual euphemism. Poliquin delights in the strange tales and improbable history of the beaver. Written in an accessible style for a broad readership, this beautifully illustrated book will appeal to anyone who enjoys long-forgotten animal lore and extraordinary animal biology. and#160; and#160;and#160;
From sixteenth-century cabinets of wonders to contemporary animal art, The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing examines the cultural and poetic history of preserving animals in lively postures. But why would anyone want to preserve an animal, and what is this animal-thing now? Rachel Poliquin suggests that taxidermy is entwined with the enduring human longing to find meaning with and within the natural world. Her study draws out the longings at the heart of taxidermy—the longing for wonder, beauty, spectacle, order, narrative, allegory, and remembrance. In so doing, The Breathless Zoo explores the animal spectacles desired by particular communities, human assumptions of superiority, the yearnings for hidden truths within animal form, and the loneliness and longing that haunt our strange human existence, being both within and apart from nature.
Despite their relatively low profile, the history of the beaver is a very important one. Beavers were widely hunted for their skin, and were largely the reason for the early colonization of North America, as well as explorersand#8217; westward expansion toward the Pacific coast. While the bison is the first animal that comes to mind when thinking of large groups of animals who were nearly hunted to extinction, the beaver was even more widely pursued, first being hunted in Eurasia and then later in North America. Early North American cultures passed down mythological tales involving beavers, and the beaver is one of the national symbols of Canada. The history of the continent and the beaver are very much intertwined, as it seems that one does not exist without the other.
Poliquinand#8217;s Beaver uncovers the nature of an animal not usually discussed at length, showing their true worth in the world today.and#160; It is sure to engage those who already admire this humble yet important animal, as well as interest those who wish to learn more of its rich natural and cultural history.
About the Author
is a writer and curator engaged with the cultural history of the natural world, and she has curated taxidermy exhibits for the Museum of Vancouver and the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at the University of British Columbia. She is author of The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing
. She lives in Vancouver.
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