The Dominant Animal: Stories

The Dominant Animal: Stories

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Author: Kathryn Scanlan

Publisher: MCD x FSG Originals (2020)

In The Dominant Animal—Kathryn Scanlan’s adventurous, unsettling debut collection—compression is key. Sentences have been relentlessly trimmed, tuned, and teased for maximum impact, and a ferocious attention to rhythm and sound results in a palpable pulse of excitability and distress. The nature of love is questioned at a golf course, a flower shop, an all-you-can-eat buffet. The clay head of a man is bought and displayed as a trophy. Interior life manifests on the physical plane, where characters—human and animal—eat and breathe, provoke and injure one another.

With exquisite control, Scanlan moves from expansive moods and fine afternoons to unease and violence—and also from deliberate and generative ambiguity to shocking, revelatory exactitude. Disturbances accrue as the collection progresses. How often the conclusions open—rather than tie—up. How they twist alertly. No mercy, a character says―and these stories are merciless and strange and absolutely masterful.

"A deeply enjoyable book . . . atmospheric with fear and shock, threat and disorientation . . . Through the power of her vision, Scanlan takes hold of the world and gives it to the reader with an intensity that is, paradoxically, both strange and familiar . . . Scanlan requires that the reader remain sharply vigilant: a feeling that lingers long after finishing the book and will, perhaps, be part of what draws people back."

–David Hayden

"[The stories] are short, but their mood and imagery are lasting, and reflective of brutal truths of the commerce of human civilization . . . chilling, finely tuned pieces on power and survival."

–Jessica Ferri

"Every word is precise and brutal . . . [A] sense of metamorphosis, combined with the fact that no technology is mentioned throughout, gives her stories a timeless, fable-esque quality . . . [The stories] are enigmatic, unsettling and tinged with body horror; funny, cruel and minutely repulsive in places. But they are also cinematic, with strange images that are as ephemeral as they are memorable . . . a brilliant, unsettling collection."

–Lucy Watson