Synopses & Reviews
With bravura storytelling, daring imagination, and fierce narrative control, this dazzling debut introduces that rare writer who finds humanity in our most unconventional behavior, and the humor beneath our darkest impulses.
In these ten strange, funny, and unnerving stories, animals become the litmus test of our deepest fears and longings. In the title story, an elephant keeper courts danger from his gentle charge; in "Miss Waldron's Red Colobus," a headstrong young woman in Africa is lured by the freedom of the monkeys in the trees; in "Talk Turkey," a boy has secret conversations with the turkeys on his friend's family's farm; in "Slim's Last Ride," a child plays chilling games with his pet rabbit; in "Gallus Gallus," a pompous husband projects his anger at his wife onto her prized rooster.
This fresh, inventive debut will introduce Hannah Tinti as one of the most gifted writers of her generation. Enter her world at your own risk, and you will come away bewitched.
"Hannah Tinti is who you want around a campfire or on a long road trip. The stories in Animal Crackers will make your head spin, your skin crawl, your heart jump." Helen Ellis, author of Eating the Cheshire Cat
"[A] striking debut collection....11 highly original, sometimes gorgeous stories....A redeeming generosity underlies the harsher realities in these stories..." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"The clearly talented Tinti isn't afraid to take risks, but sometimes she pushes her artfulness a bit too self-consciously." Kirkus Reviews
"A whimsical cross between the Dr. Doolittle books and The Life of Pi. Original and funny, but also tough, touching, shocking, and enthralling." Stephen Dixon, author of Frog, Interstate, and I
"[E]very story is well wrought and cleverly crafted....[A]lmost every piece in this volume will interrupt your thoughts and invade your sleep." Library Journal
About the Author
Hannah Tinti grew up in Salem, Massachusetts. Her work has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories, Story Quarterly, and Epoch, among other publications. She is currently the editor of One Story magazine.
Reading Group Guide
1. In what way do the animals in these stories provide mirrors for human behavior? What enhancements do they provide that an all-human cast of characters could not?
2. In the title story, what differences become apparent between the way the narrator responds to women and the way he responds to Marysue? How does his perception of his coworkers compare to his perception of himself?
3. Discuss the themes of infidelity and murder presented in “Home Sweet Home.” What instincts (including maternal ones) do the story illustrate? How do both households define normalcy?
4. What other power struggles were you reminded of when reading about the giraffes plight in “Reasonable Terms”? What is the effect of the storys tragicomic elements-from the giraffes mock suicide to the psychiatrists prescription of flashy entertainment? How does Hannah Tinti balance intensity and humor throughout the collection?
5. What does “Preservation” indicate about the impulse to re-create images of life through art? What acts of self-preservation take place in the story?
6. Would you characterize nine-year-old Ricks behavior toward Slim as sadistic, or is he simply convinced that his rabbit can fly? Do you consider much of the violence in Animal Crackers to be sadistic in nature? What is the nature of the violence in “Hit Man of the Year”?
7. Could anything (including turkey messages) have defeated the painful family legacies that impact Joey, Ralph, and Danny in “Talking Turkey”?
8. Is it possible to read Fred and Mr. Green as being part of a love triangle with the protagonist in “How to Revitalize the Snake in Your Life”? Or are her intense experiences with them separate? What makes the authors choice of a boa constrictor especially appropriate for this story?
9. Mrs. Perkinss affection for poultry began when she encountered a textbook diagram of Gallus, gallus, “the wild red jungle chicken of Southeast Asia.” What longings did Romeo fulfill in her? What do she and her husband teach Emeline about longings? What does Thomas Dewey help Mr. and Mrs. Perkins see?
10. How does the family dynamic in “Bloodworks” compare to those elsewhere in the collection? What is the answer to Richards frustrated refrain “Why did you do that?”
11. What is the effect of letting Miss Waldron have the last word in Animal Crackers? Is she the most liberated creature in the book?
12. Traditionally, animals have appeared in literature as ingredients for fable or allegory, or more recently, as animated characters that mimic humanity. What makes Hannah Tintis use of animals innovative in terms of their appearance, conversations, and overall characterization?
13. Each selection in the book features a character struggling against conventional wisdom or conventional behavior. Which story best summarized one of your own struggles-emotional or otherwise?
14. Discuss the literary techniques used by the author to make the story lines compelling and the characters vibrant. In what ways is her storytelling voice distinctive?
15. Should these stories be read as a continuum? Is there a recurring conflict, or a central character embodied in various forms, presented for resolution? If so, is that resolution achieved in the end?
Hannah Tinti garnered numerous accolades for her fiction debut, Animal Crackers
, a story collection widely acclaimed for its daring narratives and bewitching prose. In these eleven selections, Tinti explores humanitys darkest impulses through prisms of irony and humor. Inventing a menagerie of protagonists and supporting characters, Tinti blurs the distinctions between human nature and nature itself. These are tales in which lovers hone fierce new forms of revenge, animals surpass the integrity of their caretakers, and survival can become a question of imagination as much as sheer ferocity.
The questions and discussion topics that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Hannah Tintis Animal Crackers. We hope they will enrich your experience of these dazzling achievements in short fiction.