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Enter the Aardvark

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Librarian note: Alternate cover of 9781473575271.

Only one thing stands between Alexander Paine Wilson and his destiny… and it has long ears, spoon-like claws and a tubular snout.

Republican congressman Alexander Paine Wilson is determined that nothing will stop him in his campaign for re-election. Not the fact that he is a bachelor, not the fact that his main adversary Nancy Beavers – married, with children – is rising in the polls. Nothing. That is, until one hot day in August, he receives a large parcel via FedEx. Inside is a gigantic taxidermied aardvark.

This aardvark has a surprising history – from the Victorian naturalist who discovered it to the taxidermist who deemed it his finest creation. But for Wilson, the entrance of the aardvark sets off a chain of events that threaten to ruin his entire career.

Constantly surprising, brilliantly comic and piquantly provocative, Enter the Aardvark is a tale for our times, a biting satire with a tender underbelly.

192 pages, ebook

First published March 24, 2020

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About the author

Jessica Anthony

7 books153 followers
Anthony’s short stories can be found in Best New American Voices, Best American Nonrequired Reading, New American Writing and elsewhere. She has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the MacDowell Colony, the Millay Colony, the Ucross Foundation, and the Maine Arts Commission. Her books have been published in a dozen countries and reviewed in The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe and The San Francisco Chronicle. She will be serving as one of four Bridge Guard artists in Sturovo, Slovakia in 2015.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 535 reviews
Profile Image for Roxane.
Author 120 books160k followers
August 7, 2020
What a strange book. There are two threads. There is an asshole republican congressman utterly lacking in self-awareness and a taxidermist and an aardvark.

Some parts were a bit too... on the nose, a bit too easy. But still, this is some of the most original satire I’ve read.
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,711 reviews25k followers
March 27, 2020
This is a wonderfully offbeat, satirical, hilarious and original novel from Jessica Anthony, about the killing of the aardvark in Southern Africa by a Victorian naturalist, Sir Richard Ostlet, and sent to his former lover, 40 year old renowned taxidermist, Titus Downing, in Leamington Spa, along with detailed notes. This is the story of a gigantic taxidermied aardvark and its journey, including some time with the Nazis, up to the present in the US until it finally finds its way home. This oft bonkers narrative shifts from past to present seamlessly, with common themes between the two stories that include repressed sexuality, hypocrisy, and a love that is not seen for what it is until it is too late. Downing is a gifted taxidermist where his extraordinary talent lies in his ability to capture the 'jiva' or soul of an animal in his work, his workshop with its tools is described in detail.

With Ostlet's death, Downing pours his love for Ostlet into the aardvark, albeit with some slightly macabre additions to the animal, his work reaching an exceptional high in his career, even if it does not receive public recognition. In the present in Washington DC, right wing Republican Congressman Alexander Paine Wilson is seeking re-election with a campaign built on divisions with the promotion of inequalities, has dreams and ambitions of being a future POTUS. He is obsessed with Reagan, as his home will attest, uneasy with women, blacks, latinos, and the LGBQT community,and feels it is unAmerican that healthcare should be foisted on the people by an interfering government. The deplorable, hypocritical Wilson has been a jerk since childhood, unable to feel empathy for others, knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. He determines he is not gay, despite having been with men throughout his life.

The aardvark plays a central role in the life and loves of Wilson and Downing, and for Wilson from the minute he takes the disconcerting FedEx delivery of the aardvark from his former lover, Greg Tampico, his career begins a downward spiral, until all that he had valued is lost, but was what he valued of worth? Anthony writes an acutely observed and astute novel of our times that is witty and funny, that draws parallels between two different eras, and two different men linked by the entry of an aardvark and the ghosts of their past. This is a brilliant and fun read that deserves to be read by the widest audience possible. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Random House Transworld for an ARC.
Profile Image for Adina .
890 reviews3,542 followers
April 27, 2020
Enter the title and the cover on Netgalley when I thought two things: What the hell is an Aardvark and I have to read this book because this title and cover are so strange. Enter the blurb, a satire about some US politician who receives a stuffed Aardvark as a gift and from there his carefully well built (and fake) career unravels. Vonnegut was mentioned as a similar writer and I was sold

Enter the two main timelines, first one in the Victorian era where a well-known naturalist, Sir Richard Ostlet, gifts a dead Aardvark to his former lover, Titus Downing, a taxidermist who stuffs it. Enter the 2nd timeline, the present day Washington DC where the asshole Republican Congressman Alexander Paine Wilson is seeking re-election. His campaign is built on promotion of inequality of rights, the separation in two Americas and an unhealthy obsession of Ronald Reagan. Enter the surprise that the Congressman’s POV is written in 2nd person narrative. The jerk receives the above mentioned stuffed aardvark from a former lover, Greg Tampico which will set in motion some absurd and funny events that will end his career. There are many similarities between the stories of the two “couples” which was an interesting aspect of this book. Another one that I enjoyed was the political satire, the idea that there is a difference between who the politician really is and what he/she preaches.

I thought the first timeline to be a sad story and I still struggle about my feelings about the 2nd one. I really disliked the main character which it was intended, I was quite happy what became of him but I am not sure I understood the ending, the part with the muffin at least.
I had fun reading the novel, it was witty and different. I was even moved by some scenes but it was too short to make me really care. The 2nd person narrative worked well in the end and added to the absurdness of the events.

Many thanks to Netgalley and Random House UK, Transworld for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Anmiryam.
787 reviews137 followers
December 12, 2019
What happens when someone brings a nasty, closeted, right-wing acolyte of Ronald Reagan a stuffed aardvark? Everything. And all of it will surprise you. How did this taxidermied nocturnal creature from Namibia arrive on Congressman Alexander Payne Wilson's doorstep? The journey we discover, starts in the 1870s, and as we read it becomes clear that the present and the path intertwine. The dual, though strikingly similar tales across time elevate the novel beyond a standard farce, though don't worry, if you're here for the farce you won't be disappointed.

This book is so smart, so over-the-top, so filled with things that will make you laugh, or cringe, or both that it's impossible to pretend that everyone will love it. I will say however, I wish everyone did. Somehow a book about a closeted right-wing power hungry piece of shit turns out to be utterly feminist and very wise about the ways in which everyone craves love, even if they don't understand what it means to give love. Give it a leap of faith and then marvel at the skill of Jessica Anthony's debut.
Profile Image for ·Karen·.
617 reviews768 followers
June 28, 2020
This suffers from the defects of its virtues.

If you're going to have fun making a shitload of bad stuff happen to someone then that someone has to be a jerk. Alexander Paine Wilson presses all the jerkdom buttons, oh yeah. So many that I found it hard to give a toss what happens to him.

But I read the whole thing, so there was obviously something else on offer. A clever parallel story which offers a bit of fun spotting the, er, parallels. Almost too cute. A weirdly unlikely sort-of-suicide. (Don't ask).

The best bit for me was the widening of my vocabulary. I now know what plantigrade and digitigrade mean, and I didn't even have to go back to check those words because they came up enough times (every time?) when the aardvark was mentioned for them to become assimilated. I also checked out why Ronald Regan was nicknamed the Gipper, and also googled Inherit the Wind but that left me none the wiser about the significance of Who's gonna be your lawyer , son?

Sometimes cultural references can ground something, so sure, all those references to light casual summerwear by J. Crew (whatever) or a Tahoe (some kind of car apparently) or the thread count on Alexander Paine Wilson's sheets and Hermès towelling, okay, I get that it's terribly important to Alexander Paine Wilson and truly, yes, helps to establish his jerkdom, but it is also incredibly irritating sometimes, along with APW'S whole narrative being in the second person - that just sets my teeth on edge.

I'm not sure if the virtues outweigh the defects.
Profile Image for David.
671 reviews337 followers
January 18, 2021
Alexander Paine Wilson is a pompous, hypocritical, super closeted dick. Coincidentally he's the Republican incumbent in the first congressional district in Virginia against the pantsuit wearing Nancy Beavers. He's a Ronald Reagan superfan, low key bigot, unconscious misogynist and a conspicuous consumer who knows exactly how much his Kohler vibrant Brushed Bronze WaterTile Ambient Rain Shower or ten-layered, California King–sized Kluft Palais Royale mattress costs - because of course.

And so it's not for nothing how delightful it is to see everything go monstrously wrong with the arrival on one stuffed aardvark whose provenance can be traced back to a richly moustachioed zoological naturalist, Sir Richard Ostlet of the Victorian Era. He has sent the recently captured aardvark to his taxidermist acquaintance, and sometimes secret lover, Titus Downing who makes up the other half of the book.

And of course it's almost painfully quaint to think an aardvark owned by some very fine people could render one so low given the cavalcade of crime on persistent display in the news from withholding military aid, insider trading, armed insurrection and jaw-dropping levels of credulity. But still, it feels like Jessica Anthony is having fun, revelling in words, poking in quaint digressions and, to top it all off, writing in the second person no less - so she gets my hearty vote.
Profile Image for Jason.
1,218 reviews118 followers
December 30, 2019
I do love stumbling across an unknown book and finding out that it is a brilliant read, that is what happened with "enter the aardvark". A political satire that captures the madness of politics and news media perfectly. Alexander Paine Wilson is a politician that pushes crazy laws about same sex marriage and abortions by day and at night is completely oblivious that he is breaking the laws he is trying to enforce, in my opinion that fits the average politician in the UK.

That is just half the story of this book, the second half is about a Victorian Taxidermist working on his masterpiece...the Aardvark...all whilst dealing with his sexuality. All woven into this story is the Aardvark, written with a wry humour just like Kurt Vonnegut would have used. It is not slapstick funny but there were loads of times I found myself shaking my head with a grin on my face. There are quite a few plot twists and Wilson's epic realisation at the end was a smart way to tie up any loose ends.

I have enjoyed this book big time, some very good characters and who in their right mind couldn't love the aardvark?

Blog review: https://felcherman.wordpress.com/2019...
Profile Image for Betsy Robinson.
Author 9 books1,075 followers
August 13, 2020
It's not often I obsess over where a story came from, but reading this wild satire alternating between that of a taxidermist in Victorian England and a corrupt and self-involved congressman in the present-day U.S. of A. had me constantly asking, "How did she do this? Where did this come from?"

I guess it doesn't matter. But it is such an original and unexpected satire about political animals and an aardvark and homosexual longing and pain that I still do wonder.

The ride was actually better than the ending, which felt a little contrived or labored. But still I really enjoyed this book.
Profile Image for Em.
305 reviews58 followers
January 6, 2020
satire + taxidermy + ??? = !!!!!!!
Profile Image for Jenne.
1,086 reviews675 followers
January 27, 2020
One of those books where every few pages you go hahahahahaWHAT.
I'm not sure what exactly happened but I had a good time!
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,671 reviews2,664 followers
April 19, 2020
On a scoreboard of the most bizarre, zany and fun novels I’ve read, this one would be right up there with Ned Beauman’s Boxer, Beetle and Alex Christofi’s Glass. The two story lines, one contemporary and one set in the 1870s, are linked by a taxidermied aardvark that makes its way from Namibia to the Washington, D.C. suburbs by way of Victorian England.

The aardvark was collected by naturalist Sir Richard Ostlet and stuffed by Titus Downing, his secret lover. Ostlet committed suicide in Africa, but his wife could still sense him walking up and down outside her London home. In the present day, Republican congressman Alexander Paine Wilson, who emulates Ronald Reagan in all things, gets a FedEx delivery of a taxidermied aardvark – an apparent parting gift from Greg Tampico before the latter committed suicide. To keep his gay affair from becoming public knowledge, Wilson decides it’s high time he found himself a trophy wife. But the damned aardvark keeps complicating things in unexpected ways.

A scene where a police officer stops Wilson for texting and driving and finds the stuffed aardvark in the back of his SUV had me laughing out loud (“Enter the aardvark, alight on its mount. Enter the aardvark, claw raised, head covered with a goddamned gourmet $22 dish towel that suddenly looks incredibly suspicious hanging over the head of an aardvark, like it’s an infidel”). History repeats itself amusingly and the aardvark is an entertaining prop, but Wilson is too obviously odious, and having his narrative in the second person doesn’t add anything. This is not a debut novel but reads like one: full of bright ideas, but falling a bit short in the execution.
Profile Image for Lobstergirl.
1,749 reviews1,267 followers
August 8, 2021

Like Kurt Vonnegut crossed with Bret Easton Ellis. I had Matt Gaetz stuck in my head as the protagonist Alexander Paine Wilson, closeted Republican Congressman with a Ronald Reagan fetish.

Anthony manages to pull off present tense and second person POV without being irritating, which is a big accomplishment.

Oops: "Rebecca Ostlet, having drank more than usual..."
Profile Image for Wendy Cosin.
593 reviews20 followers
February 25, 2020
Enjoyable and amusing, Enter the Aardvark tells parallel stories about two men in in the late 1800’s - a naturalist and a taxidermist - and a creepy Republican congressman in DC in current times. The novel jumps back and forth as the characters live their complicated lives. Full of facts and words I didn’t know, this political satire is a quick read.

I received a free ARC. The novel will be published in late March.
Profile Image for Jessica Stephenson.
84 reviews8 followers
March 24, 2020
Bloody HELL. Jessica Anthony just gets better and better. Despite the main character being a despicable, utterly privileged, closeted, gay conservative white man, I fell in love with this book immediately. This novel is utterly batshit crazy, hilarious, irreverent, and so ridiculously satisfying. Five stars.
Profile Image for Madeleine (Top Shelf Text).
292 reviews236 followers
March 14, 2020
Thank you to Little Brown for my free review copy! All opinions are my own.

This was just...an odd book. Both in style and in substance. And I don't want to say I disliked it, but I couldn't even begin to explain it enough to recommend to a fellow reader. What I most liked about it was the style of writing, which was flippant and had so much voice to it. But at under 200 pages, this took me a full week to read and I just didn't quite understand what the author was trying to do.

Profile Image for Steve Haft.
82 reviews
June 26, 2020
I hated pretty much everything about this book — the smirking, sneering second-person narration, the flat stock characters (anti-gay Republicans are secretly gay), the aimless plot. It had a good start, made me laugh a few times, and was mercifully short, but I was very glad when it was over.
Profile Image for Suanne Laqueur.
Author 25 books1,510 followers
August 13, 2020
That was...really really weird. But also really kind of...wow. Wonderful.
Profile Image for charlotte,.
3,227 reviews873 followers
March 29, 2020
On my blog.

Rep: gay mcs

CWs: eye horror, gore, casual racism, sexism & homophobia (inc. slurs)

The best description of this book that I can come up with is that it’s fucking weird. It’s irreverent and at times laugh-out-loud funny, but, above all, it’s an inherently odd little story.

Enter the Aardvark does not follow characters in the usual sense. Instead, it follows the journey of a taxidermied aardvark from its moment of death to the present day. When Republican congressman Wilson receives the aardvark via Fed-Ex from his lover (who he would not actually call his lover), it sets into motion a chain of events which, though he does not know it, will culminate in his downfall. Meanwhile, interspersed with Wilson’s story is that of how the aardvark came to be as it is.

Like I said, this is, at heart, a weird story. But it’s also compellingly written, so even though Wilson is definitely an odious character (albeit written in a mocking way), you want to continue reading. Just to find out more. It probably also helps that the second half of the story involves some slightly spooky and mysterious, and apparently paranormal, aspects. Basically, you get to that point where you’re like, just one more page, and then you realise you’ve read two thirds of it in an entire sitting.

Part of what makes the book compelling is the writing. I mean, you have a character as dislikeable as Alexander Paine Wilson, you have to have strong writing to keep my interest. And the writing here is definitely that. I also liked how it never said, hey, you should feel sorry for this absolute shitbag. It mercilessly mocks him throughout (particularly his obsession with Ronald Reagan). He is a caricature of a Republican politician. (Though also to note, sometimes I did wonder if a white cishet woman was the right person to be doing the satire at points but…yeah.)

The other part of the book is a lot different in feel to this. And, honestly, sort of held my interest less. But even so, the separate parts complemented each other well. I think maybe I’d have liked to have followed the aardvark’s progress a little more in between the two parts we see (though we do sort of see the beginning of that), but I guess it is actually following the aardvark taken out of its home country and then returned. In a way and via the downfall of Wilson’s political career.

So yeah. If you’re looking for a quick, funny, incredibly strange read, pick this one up.
Profile Image for Katia.
37 reviews15 followers
October 28, 2019
I suppose there is something to be said for this book; I did finish it, after all. That is not to say that it is particularly readable, as there were long passages I had to skip over on account of the fact that I didn't really care all that much. Anthony does tease you enough to continue reading with implausible, strange plot turns and an alternation between two characters' perspectives, but beyond that I didn't find anything redeemable about this book.

It was pitched as an exercise in "knowing one's enemy," but it didn't feel as if that was the real aim. If the aim was to draw a crude caricature of one's enemy, and then put them through a series of morbid trials in an attempt to convince them to be a real, fleshed out person instead of the caricature you drew, only to have this inevitably fail in the end, then this book achieves its goal perfectly. Enter the Aardvark occasionally hints at real sorrow and real love, but never provides more than that. Perhaps as a satire it performs best, but I am unsure of who, or what, it is truly satirizing. One may argue that it is the millennial republican man, or perhaps men in general, or perhaps just the workings of the patriarchy, but I felt this book failed to really tell me anything I didn't already know, and it also failed to tell me something I did know in an interesting, funny way.

Also, I'm not sure why publishers are convinced that putting the subject of taxidermy in a book will immediately make it a bestseller, but I am getting a little tired of the trend.
Profile Image for Richard.
1,320 reviews43 followers
June 7, 2020
What an odd novel. I think there are rather substantial chunks, including much of the ending, that don't really land. Still, the whole enterprise is so fresh and surprising that I'm not going to fuss over what doesn't work.

There is a lot of talk lately about "own voices" writers, which is great. But like everything on the internet, too many people are far too eager to appoint themselves gatekeepers. Personally, I think Anthony does a spectacular job creating specific and unstereotypical queer characters, and the fact that These characters are queer in This story is just really interesting.

Profile Image for Kassie.
411 reviews472 followers
April 14, 2020
I just.... this wasn't for me. This book has three main characters including a taxidermist in old London and a current Republican senator during his recent campaign. Everything was weird including the way Jessica Anthony chose to write this novel and I wasn't a fan. I don't exactly know how to explain why, it's just... weird and too much?
Profile Image for carlageek.
275 reviews24 followers
June 27, 2021
Hilarious and gigantically clever political satire in which a Reagan-worshiping ambitious young douchebag of a congressman finds his career and life unraveling when his secret gay lover dies by suicide. Interspersed with the story of Congressman Wilson’s career circling the bowl is a historical fiction about a Victorian taxidermist. Tying the two stories together—along with some metaphorical connections relating to love, blindness, propriety, and ambition—is one magnificent stuffed aardvark. The animal, bagged by a Namibian hunter working for the taxidermist’s colonialist lover, stuffed by the taxidermist himself, and bought by Herrmann Goering’s father, eventually finds its way into the hands of Wilson’s lover, and thence to Wilson himself, where it is the catalyst of his spectacular implosion. It is a peculiar symbol of the strands woven through history, tying the most disparate individuals and experiences together, and it is the centerpiece of a truly remarkable book.

In a stylistic quirk I wasn’t sure I liked at first, Congressman Wilson’s story is told in the second person: you are the massive douchebag who buys Reagan’s former possessions at auction, who fantasizes about having an airport named after himself, who is not gay, but… But I think there is a point to Jessica Anthony’s potentially gimmicky choice here, as it forces you into sympathy with an utterly repugnant character who is otherwise just too easy to, like, laugh at. And another thing Anthony does extraordinarily well is to give Alex Wilson a true character arc, an iota of growth that is nevertheless not too much growth, so that it neither feels implausible nor detracts from the satisfaction of this absolute garbage can of a person receiving the humiliation he so richly deserves. Yes, Wilson gets what is coming to him, but there is also a moment of tenderness for him, a fleeting moment in which he glimpses what being the way he is has cost him.

Profile Image for Renee.
128 reviews2 followers
May 3, 2021
So, if a touch of magical realism-ishness and an acknowledgment of big choices made in taxidermy + a delightfully twisted take on closet culture isn't your thing, then you won't love this book!

But oh my gosh! What a book! It's none of what it seems.

At first, it seems like a bit of a political satire about an absolutely dreadful member of US House of Representatives - and written in second person - who receives a stuffed Aardvark!

But as the novel progresses it becomes clear that the 'you' the disembodied narrator is referring to is not YOU the reader but someone else in particular, and there are multiple characters in this seemingly straightforward narrative. All of the arcs end with unhappiness, even for the individuals around them. All of the arcs are redemptive and believe in new chances. All of the writing is just so snappy and the surprises are genuinely surprising. A satire, a character piece, a whodunnit, a pseudo-history. It's all of them.

Also, I will never consider taxidermy the same way again.
Profile Image for Kendall Grey.
Author 60 books1,613 followers
May 24, 2022
I had no idea what to expect when I started listening to this book, but I was very pleasantly surprised. It's two parallel stories--one in the present and the other in the past--that seem completely separate from each other, but they start to bleed into one another in the best ways. It was short and sweet, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Profile Image for Megan.
1,701 reviews63 followers
April 27, 2020
An odd book that flashes back and forward in time around a stuffed aardvark. There were some nice snarky moments, but it all lacked resolution. Just 3 stars for me.
Profile Image for Shannon.
125 reviews2 followers
July 26, 2021
Such an interesting structure that really works! Very smart, funny, a little depressing, but definitely captivating.
Profile Image for Rachel.
19 reviews
April 14, 2020
I enjoyed this a lot. I thought the parallel storylines played off each other nicely. The sadness of the story was well balanced with the humor - all the asides really cracked me up. Got a little slow in the middle but overall an enjoyable read and lots of aardvark!
Profile Image for Wanda.
1,166 reviews26 followers
May 6, 2020
Offbeat humor and political satire – what’s not to like? I don’t want to risk saying too much because discovering what an aardvark has to do with a 19th century naturalist, a taxidermist, and a modern day closeted conservative member of Congress is half the fun of this book. I’ll just say if you liked Less or A Confederacy of Dunces you’ll probably like this too. And if you watch Fox News, forget it.
Profile Image for Riley.
132 reviews34 followers
May 18, 2020
Man, what a fun book. The wit, the pace, the dialogue, the plot, every element of this book keeps you turning pages. "Aardvark" is a wry and tender reminder that the undercurrents coursing through us are complex and powerful.

In "Aardvark" and her previous novel, "The Convalescent," Anthony draws on two storylines that converse with each other over hundreds of years—one in the current moment of the story, the other a more historical, evolutionary storyline. In each, the stories echo each other in a way that feels natural and fated, yet surprising. Reading a Jessica Anthony novel is realizing that every moment in time, every instance in which the future's path has broken one way and not the other, has built up to the now. Even the most humiliating ones.

Displaying 1 - 30 of 535 reviews

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