In one of the more unusual examples of book launch PR, a man who wrote a book about the mysterious life of fungus decided to demonstrate the limitless appetite of oyster mushrooms by letting them chow down on his publication. Cultivated in a kind of tomb that when recorded resembles a house track (more on this later), the author, named Merlin Sheldrake, then decided to harvest the fruits of the fruiting bodies that had harvested his literature by eating them right back.
Merlin Sheldrake is a biologist and author of Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures. The book was released in the US earlier this year and will soon be released in the UK. It seems, to get the word out, Sheldrake opted for an unusual marketing campaign.
In the video, Sheldrake can be seen admiring a somewhat haggard copy of his brand-new book, which had been offered up as a sacrifice to the Pleurotus fungus, one of nature’s great omnivores. The experiment left Pleurotus to work its magic for a few weeks, the result of which is this pretty sick beat recorded by electrodes detecting activity in the fungus. As it turns out, making music out of developing fungus is actually a thing and there are entire Soundcloud accounts dedicated to the unusual art form.
As Sheldrake mentions in the video, Pleurotus will eat just about anything, from crude oil to used cigarette butts and even glyphosate, a broad-spectrum herbicide that usually kills botanical bodies. Incredibly, when feeling particularly peckish, this predatory fungus can even hunt down and kill nematode worms.
“Initially I was flattered that the fungus seemed to have consumed the book so eagerly, but on reflection I don’t think that I can take this as a vote of confidence,” Sheldrake admits in the video. “But I think it’s still a reassuring sight. Given it’s the ultimate omnivore it would’ve been a bit bruising if the fungus hadn’t eaten the book at all.”
We then see Sheldrake harvesting his glut in double time after proclaiming, “now it’s the fungus’s turn to get eaten,” followed appropriately by some serving suggestions. “Some of them I’ll pickle in brine, so I don’t have to scoff them all at once, another lot I’ll fry up and eat right away. So now I’m sautéing the oyster mushrooms with a little bit of garlic and some oil. Keep it simple.”
So, if your library’s looking a little 'shroomy, some oil and garlic could be all you need to turn it into a culinary exploration. Just make sure they’re not ones that might kill you, first.