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Animal Crackers: Stories Paperback – March 1, 2005
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.
Tinti boldly parses primal emotions in her stealthy short stories, which, like cats' paws, conceal weapons of great precision. Each tale posits interaction between animals and humans, which, rather than offering cuddly moments, lead to vicious or spooky confrontations. Zoos make perfect theaters for Tinti's creepy and caustic satires. In the title story, an unhappy zoo worker assigned the task of washing an elephant has a dire plan in mind, and in the Animal Farm-like "Reasonable Terms," giraffes enact a dramatic protest. A museum of natural history is the setting for "Preservation," Tinti's finest, most compassionate, and most richly metaphorical story. A rabbit, rooster, and boa constrictor play pivotal roles in alarming tales on the domestic front, in which ironically prosaic backdrops contrast with shocking acts of cold-blooded revenge and bloodshed. Tinti's fables are dark and wily, grim yet morbidly fascinating exposures of both our animal selves and our uniquely human psychoses. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.
Top customer reviews
Animal Crackers is bound together by the idea of animals in the lives of Hannah Tinti's characters, and what I did like about this collection was the way that Tinti shows the ways her characters are coping with the problems in their lives. Tinti's characters are all strange people, but in a depressing way. There's a desperately lonely woman who tries to curb the loneliness with the snake her ex-boyfriend left behind and makes a list of the snake's favorite things. A housewife murders her husband's lover, but turns off the stove and oven before leaving the house. A hitman waits for a couple to finish their dessert before shooting the woman, and then shoots the man before he notices that she's dead (a lovely act, in a twisted way). When a mother sees her son throwing his rabbit out of a window for the last time, she doesn't ever think, "My son is a wretched little demon-spawn", she's wondering if the rabbit remembered the last time he was thrown out of a window, if he was afraid, or if he was having fun. It's these little details that add so much to characters.
Overall, I enjoyed Tinti's writing. It wasn't pretentious or flowery, and her style doesn't make the stories drag. It's an enjoyable debut collection, it just wasn't memorable or mind-blowing to me.
I read this book for one reason, The Good Thief: A Novel is a great book. "Animal Crackers" was Tinti's debut book and I wanted to be able to say I've read all her work.
This collection won't knock you off your feet, but it does have it's gems:
Preservation - Mary the daughter of a well-known artist, is restoring dioramas in a natural history museum & is haunted by a stuffed black bear that seems to come to life
Slim's Last Ride - a child plays chilling games with his pet rabbit
Hit Man of the Year - Ambruzzo Spagnetti is the best, but nothing is forever
Gallus, Gallus - Mr. Perkin a pompous candy store owner & husband projects his anger at his wife onto her prized rooster Romeo
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 possible something in the family blood
A good, mild collection of short stories, if you want to be really impressed by Hannah Tinti, read her novel "A Good Thief"!
Unlike most of the animals in her stories, there seems to be something just not right about the human species. She skilfully hints around the prevalence of sociopathic behavior in her human characters, suggesting it may be more innate, and thus common, whether exhibited in unattended little boys or refined hitmen, than we would like to admit. We're more interested in self-absorption than the self-preservation exhibited by her non-human characters.
It's a curious contrast. Her non-human characters, including easily bored pet snakes, wild red jungle chickens of Southeast Asia, mobilized and striking zoo giraffes, Slim the ragdoll white rabbit, and stuffed museum bears exhibit just as much, if not more, personality and civility we would normally expect from ourselves.
Some stories hit everything right, like Animal Crackers. The story and characters are both memorable. Some stories like Preservation have very interesting characters but the story wasn't so keen. Each story did have something going for it-unique quirky characters or the manner of Ms. Tinti telling the story.
The book back states the book to be "strange, funny, and unnerving." I originally took that to mean humorous. After reading the book, I know that they mean funny as weird or strange. I liked least the stories that left one wondering if the character was going crazy- the woman who kept seeing her cadaver or the woman who thought the stuffed bear was tracking her. I know it was symbolic, but I thought it could have been better expressed.
All in all, a highly enjoyable read. Maybe I'll give more short stories a try!!
Most recent customer reviews
Roy the Magic Man
Animals take center stage in the bewitching debut story collection, Animal Crackers.Read more