The Taxidermist's Catalog
Place Published: Braddock, PA
Publisher: Braddock Avenue Books
Date Published: September 2019
For music journalist Daniel Morus the notion that things could be going better is a double album-sized understatement. He finds himself on the wrong side of a brief second marriage, professionally irrelevant, and facing the last act of his life with few friends and little prospect for fulfillment—never mind happiness. His one remaining pleasure is the folk music he’s spent the better part of his career listening to and writing about, especially the work of 1970s wunderkind Jim Toop, who enthralled audiences with lyrics that even after decades bristle with the kind of authenticity that can change a person’s life. The same Jim Toop whose career was cut short when he mysteriously disappeared on a desert highway while driving to his next show, providing fodder for generations of conspiracy theorists. So when he’s approached by the editor of Folk! Magazine with the job of authenticating what might be the lost studio tape of Toop’s final, unreleased album, The Taxidermist’s Catalog, he jumps at the chance to do something that feels valuable again. Joined by a teenaged Toop enthusiast who calls himself Fox Mulder, Morus travels in the musician’s footsteps, interviewing friends and family members as he makes his way towards Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, where what he discovers about Jim Toop has the power to transform more than one life.
Smart, funny, and written with a music insider’s sensibility, The Taxidermist’s Catalog will remind you what if feels like to be transformed by the power of music.
Praise for The Taxidermist's Catalog
No one—no one—writes music like James Brubaker. This rock caper is as heartfelt and smart as it is funny and strange. Brubaker’s narrator, the hard-smoking Daniel Morus, is a Lester Bangs-meets-Philip Marlowe freelancer who takes us to Truth or Consequences in a synesthesia-fueled search for the story behind a long-lost album and Jim Toop, the disappeared acid-folkie who made it. The Taxidermist’s Catalog is a novel, but Brubaker uses the form like an old analog recording studio—I can clearly hear the ghost of Toop singing in my ear.
—Jon Billman, author of The Cold Vanish and When We Were Wolves
The Taxidermist’s Catalog blends music journalism with literary mystery to create a propulsive rock Noir thriller. Shades of Nabokov’s Pale Fire and Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 combine with The X-Files, UFOs, game shows, and Jerry Hopkins’s No One Here Gets Out Alive in this investigation of loss and memory. Even solved, the mystery lingers as tantalizingly as the “Paul Is Dead” hoax or Jim Sullivan’s 1975 disappearance.
—Matthew Cutter, author of The Closer You Are: The Story of Robert Pollard and Guided By Voices
The Taxidermist's Catalog is a compelling examination into the disappearance of musician, Jim Toop. Given meticulous attention to obsession, song lyrics, and biographical detail, this rare and carefully evoked novel is both challenging and conspicuously fun: admirers of Pynchon, Borges, and Nabokov will especially love it. "I'm not that different from the conspiracy theorists and mystery hounds," Brubaker's narrator tells us, but it is the conspiracies and mysteries that drive this exciting and ambitious novel. I absolutely loved it.
—Brandon Hobson, National Book Award Finalist and author of Where the Dead Sit Talking
When middle-aged music writer Daniel Morus receives a reel-to-reel tape of what may be an unheard album by his favorite musician, Jim Toop, Morus's depressed existence is catapulted into a search for the truth—about the long-missing Toop, his life and loves, but about his own as well. With a teenage hacker named Fox Mulder by his side, Morus embarks on a journey that is touching, hilarious, technically inventive, and page-turning. Evocative of Dana Spiotta's rock novels, Nick Hornby's Juliet, Naked, Delillo's Great Jones Street, and other stalwarts in the rock genre, The Taxidermist's Catalog combines a big heart with the eye of a true music fan. Ultimately, it is about characters who look backward to find their way forward. —Constance Squires, author of Along the Watchtower and Live from Medicine Park
James Brubaker is the author of Pilot Season, Liner Notes, and Black Magic Death Sphere: (science) fictions. His work has appeared in Zoetrope: All Story, Michigan Quarterly Review, Hobart, Booth, and The Collagist, among other venues. He lives in Missouri with his wife and cat, and teaches writing there.