four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
11-July-Aug-2004
By: 
Hannah Tinti
user_rating: 
0

A-AnimalCrackersThe eleven stories in this debut collection deal with a topic that modern (and urban) life tends to obscure from our minds: the links between people and animals. Tinti finds humor in these connections, as when three zoo giraffes strike for better conditions in "Reasonable Terms." But danger is never far off. The title story features a monkey-keeper hideously scarred by a gorilla bite, while "Slim’s Last Ride" recounts a boy’s increasingly disastrous attempts to teach his rabbit to fly. In its compelling and disturbing portrayals of human-animal interactions, Animal Crackers cautions us about the porous boundary between the civilized and the wild.
Dial Press. 208 pages. $22.95.

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Animal Crackers is a most promising effort, with remarkable range and inventiveness—and a deliciously deadpan sense of humor. … [W]hat makes these stories extraordinary is Tinti’s subtext: what we are capable of doing to each other—and to nature." Jane Ciabattari

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"The stories begin with firecracker first sentences, leaving the reader no choice but to read on." Catherine Parnell

Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"Like Edgar Allan Poe and Patricia Highsmith, Tinti has a brilliant feel for the uncanny, how it can turn situations inside out and drape our lives in mystery." John Freeman

San Diego Union-Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"[T]hese polished and very funny tales illustrate the greatest of human delusions: that we’re somehow evolved, that by buying prepackaged meat and eating with silverware we are somehow more ‘civilized’ than our pets." Tiffany Lee-Youngren

Charlotte Observer 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Tinti’s work is not for the faint of heart—graphic descriptions of violence and human dissection will deter some readers—but those who stick with her will find themselves richly rewarded. In Animal Crackers, Tinti opens the door to a darkness we all fear and bravely steps forth to meet it." Tamara Titus

Critical Summary

Tinti knows how to deliver a shock. "Home Sweet Home," for example, opens with the line, "Pat and Clyde were murdered on pot roast night." Indeed, the violence of these previously published stories might alienate her readers, were it not for her scathing sense of humor and the insight she brings to her characters’ often macabre lives. Tinti’s not out to condemn human life through association with the bestial; rather, she hopes to shed light on it—and, by all accounts, she succeeds. Her best stories are uplifting as well as disturbing. Animal tales, Tinti writes in the title story, "are supposed to give warning," but this collection also offers laughter, revelation, and the occasional flash of pure joy.