cover image What We Fed to the Manticore

What We Fed to the Manticore

Talia Lakshmi Kolluri. Tin House, $16.95 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-1-953534-41-5

The unifying premise of Kolluri’s exquisite debut collection—stories narrated from various animal perspectives—might seem gimmicky or cute, but it’s neither. Instead, these nine exceptional stories, centered on a variety of mammal and bird species and set in global locations ranging from the Sundarbans to the open ocean, from the arctic to Delhi, feel both timeless and urgent. Each deal in some way with the disruptions wrought by humans on the natural world and on nonhuman species. These include war (“The Good Donkey,” set in a Gaza zoo), hunting and poaching (in a pair of nearly unbearably sad stories, one set in Yellowstone, the other in Kenya), and technological disruptions. Perhaps inevitably, climate change is either explicitly or implicitly at the heart of several of these tales, including the title story, in which man-eating tigers realize there’s something menacing their home that’s even more dangerous than their own kind. A list of sources points to the real-world incidents and phenomena that inspired Kolluri, such as an Atlantic article titled “Why Did Two-Thirds of These Weird Antelope Suddenly Drop Dead?”; the context serves to make the author’s treatment that much more remarkable. Joy might understandably be in short supply in settings defined by mass extinctions and climate crisis, but the exceptional closer, “Let Your Body Meet the Ground,” soars on the promise of human kindness, no matter how small. This remarkable collection leaves an indelible mark. Agent: Kerry D’Agostino, Curtis Brown, Ltd. (Sept.)