What I’m reading

“Whenever I visit a museum’s collections I always ask to see its dermestid colony, usually as a form of self-torture. Always, the beetles are kept behind a sealed door, sometimes two, and as a result the air inside the room is thick and stale. The smell of several skinned corpses slowly being devoured hits one very quickly. It’s a sharp, thin stink that tends to pink in the nostrils. I have recurring nightmares involving insects and their crawling on and near my body. The simple locomotion of six wire-thin legs — even the thought of this, even the typing of the sentence — is enough to send me screaming from a room. And yet every time, I go in for a close look, peering down into the tank from above and seeing the larvae of these beetles eating the flesh of a skeleton, crackling in group mastication like some giant rotten bowl of Rice Krispies. It ranks among the most gruesome sights of my life, and yet one of the most honest. Here it is, every time: the circle of life.

— Dave Madden, The Authentic Animal: Inside the Odd and Obsessive World of Taxidermy


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