cover image The Dominant Animal

The Dominant Animal

Kathryn Scanlan. MCD, $15 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-0-374-53829-3

As with Aug 9—Fog, her adaptation of a real woman’s diary, Scanlan craftily makes the stuff of everyday life seem strange and rare in this collection. There are 40 very short stories, often only long enough to lay out a situation before it’s sneakily turned on its head. In “Florida Is for Lovers,” a daughter goes through the objects left behind by her recently deceased parents, who were indifferent to her when living. A couple’s stay in a foreign city is interrupted by their digestive troubles in “Please.” “Colonial Revival” tracks a man’s expanding fortunes after he comes home from a war before, over time, the fortunes shrink back, the dwindling crystallized in a final image of a pile of unwanted furniture. “Master Framer” follows a man who lies about his abilities for his advantage. Scanlan has a knack for subtly bending the ordinary into the uncanny, as when a narrator witnessing two boys chase each other around their yard with scissors wonders if it’s a dream, or letting the gently irregular seep into the everyday, as when a woman creeps into her basement with a knife to eat some of “a large, costly wedge of aged cheese” while her ravenous partner is distracted upstairs. Reading Scanlan is akin to looking at two “spot the difference” images, but not knowing what, exactly, is off. This is a delightful, mischievous, and mysterious collection that’s perfect for fans of Lydia Davis and Mary Ruefle. Agent: Harriet Moore, David Higham Associates. [em](Apr.) [/em]