With bravura storytelling, daring imagination, and fierce narrative control, this dazzling debut introduces that rare writer who finds humanity in our most unconventional behavior, and the humor beneath our darkest impulses.
In these ten strange, funny, and unnerving stories, animals become the litmus test of our deepest fears and longings. In the title story, an elephant keeper courts danger from his gentle charge; in "Miss Waldron's Red Colobus," a headstrong young woman in Africa is lured by the freedom of the monkeys in the trees; in "Talk Turkey," a boy has secret conversations with the turkeys on his friend's family's farm; in "Slim's Last Ride," a child plays chilling games with his pet rabbit; in "Gallus Gallus," a pompous husband projects his anger at his wife onto her prized rooster.
This fresh, inventive debut will introduce Hannah Tinti as one of the most gifted writers of her generation. Enter her world at your own risk, and you will come away bewitched.
Animals play the starring roles in Tinti's striking debut collection. In 11 highly original, sometimes gorgeous stories, they are freighted with the symbolic significance of all that is peculiar, cruel and loving in their human counterparts. "Big animals are like big problems," says the title story's zookeeper, but more often, it's people and their complex relationships to themselves and one another that cause the problems. In "Preservation," a young painter charged with restoring murals in a natural history museum's dioramas is haunted by the impending death of her artist father in the form of a stuffed black bear come to life. A woman mourns the loss of her lover while caring for his pet boa constrictor in "How to Revitalize the Snake in Your Life." Tinti's weaker stories-"Gallus, Gallus" and "Hit Man of the Year"-read more like parables and lack the psychological realism that makes her wildest notions work so brilliantly. At its best, Tinti's suburban gothic recalls Joy Williams, where violence is domesticated though no less horrifying: a mother commits murder and covers the body with breakfast cereal in "Home Sweet Home," while in "Bloodworks," a father with his own history of cruelty to animals discovers a dead kitten in his son's closet and worries that there is "something in the family blood." A redeeming generosity underlies the harsher realities in these stories, and it is to Tinti's credit that her zookeepers and pet owners, as flawed as they are, are as sympathetic as her wise giraffes and gentle bunnies. Agent, Nicole Aragi. (On sale Mar. 3) Forecast: With rights sold in a dozen countries and Tinti's visibility as the editor of the new, well-regarded One Story magazine, this should make a much bigger splash than most debut collections. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
February 28, 2005
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Animal Crackers by Hannah Tinti
It's time to wash the elephant. Joseph has dragged out the hoses and I'm trying to prod Marysue out the door to the place we do it. Hup, I say, and poke her with a broom. I need to be careful--there is a part of me that steps into traffic--she eased her weight onto the last keeper's foot and the bones were crushed to pieces. I imagine my ex-wife lifting that giant ear and whispering, Step there.
When I started, the staff treated me to a beer and showed me their scars. They said it would happen sooner or later. They said watch out. Everyone who works with animals has a mark somewhere.
Joseph says big animals are like big problems. He should know, he's had his share--eighteen years old when the army shipped him to Cambodia. He came back okay, he says, only to get his arm chomped off by a Senegalese lion in a traveling circus. He's got a little stump coming from the end of his elbow that bends up and down. Like me, Joseph used to have a wife who isn't in the picture anymore. She left him for a soldier who'd also been in Cambodia. Joseph says it was his fault. He doesn't blame the lion.
It's a warm day and I'm sweating in my coveralls. We scrub Marysue's legs and Joseph tells me another story, this one about his friend Al he met in the service (not the one who drove off into the sunset with his wife). I listen to him describe the jungle and turn my hose on the ground to make some mud. Marysue likes to roll in it. She scoops some up, throws it across her back, and I take a long-handled brush and rub it in. She looks at me with her mouth open and I think she is saying thanks.
Joseph's friend Al was stationed near Phnom Penh and had a pet cockatoo he'd bought off the street for a buck. It would sit on his shoulder and squawk, feathers rippling, but mostly it just looked around and moved its feet back and forth. Al taught it to shit on command. He'd make it go on his friends as a joke, or on people he didn't like, for a different kind of joke.
One day they were at a bar with the cockatoo flying around and it suddenly landed on Al's shoulder and let loose some of its sparkling white fruit. It had never done this before--Joseph laughed--but Al just sat and stared at it spackling down the camouflage green of his army jacket. He said, I'm going to die, and he did--somebody had booby-trapped his bike and it blew when he turned the ignition. Joseph said he saw the cockatoo flying around after that, looking for its master, and finally Joseph got so mad he knocked it out of a tree and broke its neck. He still had both his arms then.
I watch Joseph to see how he's feeling, but he doesn't seem angry anymore. He slides a sponge across Marysue's feet and says that manatees have the same kind of rounded nails on their flippers. He says they're the closest thing elephants have to a relative. I try to imagine Marysue floating in the water, suddenly free of all that weight. Elephants can swim for miles, Joseph says. Somehow they know they're not going to sink.
Sandy runs the monkey house. She is an attractive woman if you look at her from the left. When she turns, you can see the puckered skin and the crooked white line across her cheek into her chin where a gorilla took a bite out. The scar just touches the corner of her mouth, so when she smiles, the skin stretches and it looks like something's still holding on to her.
She studied biology and zoology in college. After graduation she got hired by one of her professors as a research assistant and headed into the African jungle. She was thinking she had the touch, and it made her do things she shouldn't, like get too close to a newborn gorilla and have the mother come charging out of the bushes and bury her teeth in Sandy's face until the team they were traveling with shot her down. Sandy woke up in a hospital to doctors clicking their tongues as they sewed her skin back together over the bone.