Cover image for Enter the aardvark
Title:
Enter the aardvark
ISBN:
9780316536158
Edition:
First edition.
Physical Description:
182 pages ; 22 cm
Summary:
A young congressman discovers a mysterious stuffed aardvark on his doorstep and sets out on a journey to find out what it means in this "weird, wonderful" novel about the secrets we keep from ourselves and their history-shaping consequences (Esquire). It's early one morning on a hot day in August, and millennial congressman Alexander Paine Wilson (R), planning his first reelection campaign and in deep denial about his sexuality, receives a mysterious, over-sized FedEx delivery on his front stoop. Inside is a gigantic taxidermied aardvark. This outrageous, edge-of-your-seat novel hurtles between contemporary Washington, D.C., where Wilson tries to get rid of the unsightly beast before it destroys his career, and Victorian England--where we meet Titus Downing, the taxidermist who stuffed the aardvark, and Richard Ostlet, the naturalist who hunted her. Our present world, we begin to see, has been shaped in profound and disturbing ways by the secret that binds these men. At once a ghost story, a love story, and a stunningly prescient political satire, Enter the Aardvark confronts the consequences of repressed male love meeting oppressive male power, and is a searing condemnation of our current American blindness. It is also that rarest of creatures: a work of art so utterly original and masterfully built that it seems to have spring fully formed from its visionary maker's head.
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Summary

Summary

A young congressman discovers a mysterious stuffed aardvark on his doorstep and sets out on a journey to find out what it means in this "weird, wonderful" novel about the secrets we keep from ourselves and their history-shaping consequences ( Esquire ).

It's early one morning on a hot day in August, and millennial congressman Alexander Paine Wilson (R), planning his first reelection campaign and in deep denial about his sexuality, receives a mysterious, over-sized FedEx delivery on his front stoop. Inside is a gigantic taxidermied aardvark.

This outrageous, edge-of-your-seat novel hurtles between contemporary Washington, D.C., where Wilson tries to get rid of the unsightly beast before it destroys his career, and Victorian England--where we meet Titus Downing, the taxidermist who stuffed the aardvark, and Richard Ostlet, the naturalist who hunted her. Our present world, we begin to see, has been shaped in profound and disturbing ways by the secret that binds these men.

At once a ghost story, a love story, and a stunningly prescient political satire, Enter the Aardvark confronts the consequences of repressed male love meeting oppressive male power, and is a searing condemnation of our current American blindness. It is also that rarest of creatures: a work of art so utterly original and masterfully built that it seems to have spring fully formed from its visionary maker's head.


Author Notes

Jessica Anthony has been a butcher in Alaska, an unlicensed masseuse in Poland, and a secretary in San Francisco. In 2017, while writing Enter the Aardvark , Anthony was working as "Bridge Guard," guarding the Maria Valeria Bridge between Sturovo, Slovakia and Esztergom, Hungary. Normally, she lives in Maine and teaches at Bates College.


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Anthony (The Convalescent) stitches together stories from repressive Victorian England and venal contemporary American politics in this marvelous, tragic farce populated by characters uncomfortable in their own skin. In Namibia, 1875, naturalist Sir Richard Ostet sends an aardvark specimen back to England to be stuffed by his friend and love interest, taxidermist Titus Downing, whose unparalleled creations are famed for how the artist captures each animal's jiva, or the "immortal life-essence of each living being." After Downing's uncanny aardvark shows up on the doorstep of U.S. Congressman Alexander Paine Wilson in present-day D.C., the press digs into its past owners, including Hermann Goring's father, and its presumed sender, Wilson's secret male lover, triggering a career-threatening scandal for Wilson, an ambitious, Ronald Reagan--obsessed Republican who proudly wields a "0" rating from the ACLU. Anthony alternates between the congressman's travails and Downing's taxidermic preparations, which reveal the hidden beauty within the creature's "appalling morphology." While the overly broad satirical portrait of Wilson detracts from his plotline's emotional resonance, the novel's smooth comic machinery builds toward a satisfying climax that reveals how the aardvark's history bears on the congressman's present. This idiosyncratic satire is full of wonders and warnings. Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Mar.)


Guardian Review

Who would have guessed that a satire about an oily Republican congressman, 19th-century taxidermy and a creature so ugly it resembles "a pig screwed by a donkey" would be the perfect tonic for testing times? This is what Jessica Anthony's insouciant and ingenious novel delivers in fewer than 192 achingly funny pages. When Alexander Wilson starts his re-election campaign for the first congressional district in Virginia, he ends his secret gay relationship with charity fundraiser Greg Tampico - only for FedEx to deliver a mysterious package to his door. It contains a giant stuffed aardvark, a gift from Tampico that could link the two men and thus possibly end Wilson's career. While driving to dump the creature, he is stopped by a Democrat traffic cop eager for retribution. The result is an excruciating political farce. Parallel to this narrative is the tale of how Tampico came by the aardvark in the first place. In alternating sections, we read how 19th-century taxidermist Titus Downing modelled the aardvark's eyes on those of his own secret lover. The mirroring of these forbidden affairs in the past and present makes for some poignant and pithy juxtapositions, as well as allowing Anthony to muse on religion, evolution and the transmigration of the soul. As with any farce, it's in the distance between a character's self-conception and their reality that the comedy lies. Wilson is a classic self-deluder, defenceless against his lack of self-knowledge, but confident the majority of Americans hold his views: "Women make you feel like a man, but men make you feel like a human ¿ There are also many minorities out there that make you uneasy ... LGBT sounds like something you'd order in a diner with mayo." Anthony delights in destroying her Reagan-obsessive narrator on the page, while only occasionally allowing the comic situations to veer into the ludicrous or implausible. Light on its feet, utilising second-person narration to great effect, Enter the Aardvark is reminiscent of Lionel Shriver's recent sharply cynical novel, The Mandibles, while its trenchant satire echoes Tom Rachman's much overlooked story collection, Basket of Deplorables, in which the shallow cruelties of Trump's presidency are eviscerated. Ultimately, though, Anthony's voice is all her own: deliciously astute, fresh and terminally funny.


Kirkus Review

A story of taxidermy, political intrigue, and love between men from the author of The Convalescent (2009).The story begins at the beginningor close enough. It begins with the birthor close enoughof our planet. Several eons pass over the next few pages until a Victorian naturalist traveling in Africa encounters his first aardvark. Then another story begins, and in this story, "you"these sections are narrated in the second personare an up-and-coming young Republican legislator with a Ronald Reagan fetish. These two stories become intertwined when an aardvark specimen Sir Richard Ostlet sent to his friend and lover Titus Downing, a taxidermist, is delivered to Alexander Paine Wilson's D.C. town house. As both narratives unfold, it becomes clear that Wilson and Downing have a great deal in common. The taxidermist is compelled to be circumspect about his relationship with Ostlet because what they do together is an actual crime in 19th-century England. For Wilson, coming out is impossible not only because of his political party, but also because he doesn't even define himself as gay. Yes, he has frequent and very enjoyable sexual encounters with a philanthropist named Greg Tampico, but they're just two straight guys who happen to enjoy sex with other men. The aardvark serves as a sort of intermediary between these two men and their lovers. Resurrecting this strange beast allows Downing to stay connected with Ostlet even after Ostlet has abandoned him and married a woman. When a FedEx truck dumps this selfsame aardvark on Wilson's doorstep, he sees it as a message from Gregone that the congressman will spend most of the novel struggling to decipher. In addition to providing a lot of detail about the art of taxidermy, Anthony offers meditations on the interconnectedness of all things. There are also ghosts and Nazis, in case all that isn't enough.Weirdly compelling and compellingly weird. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

The titular mammal at the center of this utterly unpredictable satire from Anthony (The Convalescent, 2020) is only alive on the page for a frenzied few seconds before it's killed in 1875 by a hunter working for British naturalist Sir Richard Ostlet, on a mission to gather ""strange mammals"" in Africa. Ostlet sends the ""marvelously humpbacked, profoundly clawed"" creature to his friend, taxidermist, and secret lover Titus Downing before taking a deadly dose of the camphor lumps normally used to preserve his specimens. Meanwhile, in the present, readers meet Representative Alex Wilson, a conservative, Reagan-idolizing, and closeted young Virginia congressman on the verge of reelection, just as he receives a most curious package: a taxidermied aardvark belonging to his own secret lover, whom he'll soon learn is dead. Anthony keeps her complex plot moving swiftly with constant jumps between the two story lines, which begin to flop wildly over one another, and twists (Eyeball transplants! Hauntings! Backstabbing!) aplenty. A wholly original, entertaining, history-infused, and politically engaged novel of the deeds and misdeeds of lonely, repressed men.--Annie Bostrom Copyright 2020 Booklist