A collection of innovative and ambitious short stories from a visionary young writer
In The Dominant Animal – Kathryn Scanlan’s adventurous, unsettling debut collection – compression is key. Sentences have been relentlessly trimmed, tuned and teased for maximum impact. A ferocious attention to rhythm and sound results in a palpable pulse of excitability and distress.
In these forty very short stories, the ordinary shifts into the uncanny: in living rooms and in hotel rooms, on suburban lawns and on the surgeon’s chair, characters – human and animal – eat, breathe, provoke and injure one another. Grandmothers sit tethered to the couch in a blue spell, lonesome men crouch among thorny shrubs, pets expire slowly or suddenly, and the nature of love is questioned at a golf course, a flower shop, an all-you-can-eat buffet.
With exquisite control, Scanlan moves from expansive moods and fine afternoons to unease and violence. Disturbances accrue as the collection progresses. No mercy, a character says – and these stories are merciless and strange and absolutely masterful.
‘A brilliant, unsettling collection of quick, sharp & searing stories that asks the reader how humane humanity actually is — a particularly apt question in our newly strange world.’ Financial Times
‘Some of the most exciting short stories of the year were to be found in Kathryn Scanlan’s The Dominant Animal, with its fiercely sculpted sentences and unnervingly off-kilter scenarios.’ Guardian, Best Fiction of 2020
‘Deeply, enjoyable. ..On rereadings I found the stories to be both more beautiful on the surface, with finely made sentences that are sonically & rhythmically compelling, and more profoundly affecting at a deeper level of feeling.’ David Hayden, Guardian
‘The legendary short story, often attributed to Ernest Hemingway – “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” – is regularly wheeled out as evidence of what a talented writer can do with a mere six words. Kathryn Scanlan’s The Dominant Animal will surely be a new reference point for flash fiction.’ Lucy Scholes, i
‘Scanlan can make a sentence do the work of a page.’ Chris Power, Guardian
‘These are sentences written in stone – to be read out loud or learned by heart.’ Irish Times
‘Kathryn Scanlan’s debut collection of short stories, is an incredible work of world-building. Its forty stories work together to ‘deepen and darken’ the world in which they are set.’ Stinging Fly
‘Brisk, incisive, and brutally shocking, these stories will leave you awestruck.’ Book Riot, Literary Highlights for 2020
‘Unusual, finely judged and wrought work… [Kathryn Scanlan] has reminded us of the beauty that can be discovered in the ordinary and in ordinary speech.’ Lydia Davis on AUG 9—FOG
‘The Dominant Animal left me feeling uneasy, off-balance and immeasurably better for having read it.’ Julia Armfield, author of salt slow
‘Elegantly spare yet exhilarating… A startling, arresting debut.’ Nicole Flattery, author of Show Them a Good Time
‘Micro short stories about dogs, surgeons, florists often told in one and a half pages. Occasionally eerie or comic but brilliant.’ Sinéad Gleeson, author of Constellations
‘In these flawless, gripping, beautiful stories Kathryn Scanlan gives us a picture of life’s true uneasy heart.’ David Hayden, author of Darker with the Lights On
‘I read The Dominant Animal in a single sitting and finished it hungry for more of the mercurial, singular, surprising magic Kathryn Scanlan is creating.’ Megan Nolan
‘All of life’s absurdities and violences are here, dressed up and pulsing with an inimitable energy and intellect that sticks.’ Rachael Allen, author of Kingdomland
‘Kathryn Scanlan comes to us as an oracle when we have never before been so desperately in need. The truths of our human affliction divulged in these icily precise, immaculately impolite, genius-spooked stories will undo you for your own good.’ Gary Lutz, author of Stories in the Worst Way
‘Kathryn Scanlan whittles sentences into weapons. The stories in The Dominant Animal are not cuddly; the dog jaws the baby like a bone; and humans, just as easily, gnaw at animals and other humans. Just as easily, the stories turn into poems, the wind blows through them and “scatters” us.’ Christine Schutt, author of Pure Hollywood