The best chapter in "Still Life" by far is the one in which Ms. Milgrom visits with the fascinating and foul-mouthed British artist Emily Mayer, the woman who is Mr. Hirst's taxidermist. She's the woman who, we learn, "repairs the sharks, preserves the grizzlies, assembles the skeletons, and casts the cow heads for his multimillion-dollar artworks." Ms. Mayer is a Tim Burtonesque perfectionist: "I can't have a piece for Damien discolor in five years," she says. "It has to be archival."
Few taxidermists ever make much money, Ms. Milgrom notes, and they're used to getting little respect from either the art or the science worlds. There's sadness, too, in Ms. Milgrom's assertion that, for all the wrong reasons, taxidermy may come back into vogue. "As more and more species become extinct due to global warming and other human factors, dioramas, sadly, have regained their original purpose: to freeze nature in its most glorious moments for a public that yearns for it yet is watching it disappear," she writes. "Perhaps in the future, taxidermy will be mostly re-creations -- re-creations of animals that have perished because of man."