The Kosher Guide to Imag­i­nary Ani­mals: The Evil Mon­key Dialogues

Ann Van­der­Meer and Jeff VanderMeer
  • Review
By – September 8, 2011

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?

Max Green­berg is a writer, artist, and non-prof­it com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sion­al. He works for the Nation­al Wildlife Federation.

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