Jeff and Ann VanderMeer, a science fiction author and editor respectively, are not new to the bizarre lit scene. The Borges-obsessed duo specializes in postmodern and fantastic fiction, and Jeff’s celebrated pseudo-biology piece, “King Squid,” from City of Saints and Madmen would seem to make him a natural choice to pen the The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals.
Ultimately, though, the chief asset of this charmingly-illustrated volume is that it leaves you wanting more: the occasionally amusing creature profiles and discussion sections are fitfully charming, if unfulfilling. In fact, the unquestioned best bit has nothing at all — or very little — to do with the book’s central conceit (think the Moosewood Cookbook for the cryptozoology set).
The VanderMeers touch on fictional creatures, from the manticore to Baba Yaga’s walking house, reflecting on the kashrut case for each and engaging in instant-messageesque banter — Ann as the grounded scholar, Jeff’s Evil Monkey persona lobbing irreverent questions.
The highlight here is a meandering interview with the Food Network’s Duff Goldman, who holds forth on preparing and eating Cthulhu and Chewbacca. Who would have thought a celebrity baker would know so much about kashrut? Or that an unstructured conversation with said cake star would prove the most enjoyable section of an otherwise featherweight trifle of a book?