A Beastly Menagerie


Sir Pilkington-Smythe, best known to readers of my links section as the wit behind The Ever So Strange Animal Almanac, has a new book out. The mission of A Beastly Menagerie: Sir Pilkington-Smythe's Marvelous Collection of Strange and Unusual Creatures is to catalog the weirdest animals on earth. This volume surveys such creatures as the microscopic water bear, which can withstand 1000 times as much radiation as a human; the male hooded seal, which doubles the size of its head by inflating the lining of its nostril; and the Jesus Christ lizard, which runs on water. My fellow danger fans will be happy to know that it also includes some old friends of ours, like the candiru, which swims up the human urethra and "sticks out a spike so it can't come out, even if you ask it really, really nicely, and offer it all sorts of cash incentives." On the tendency of vampire bats to share their meals with each other, Sir P. remarks, "All very well, if indeed the idea of vampires vomiting blood into each other's mouths is all very well."

Pilkington-Smythe is hilarious, but he's also well informed, and if you're not careful, you'll learn a lot from this book. The star-nosed mole gives him occasion to mention the ten (not five) human senses, and the mating habits of the right whale lead to a discussion of sperm competition.

I wish I had the vocabulary to tell you how beautifully designed this book is. It's the most gorgeous volume on nature I've seen since Eyelids of Morning. Highly recommended. 


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