It's hard not to like Hannah Tinti even before you read Animal Crackers. She's the lone editor and half of a two-woman crew at the avant-garde literary magazine One Story, which consists of one story per issue. While anyone who can persist at such a labor of love and still manage to put Ramen noodles on the table deserves admiration, Tinti also somehow found time to pen a stunningly original collection of stories on the human condition. You could also call it a look at the zoological condition, as each story features an animal. Depending on the story, the beast may be an animal doppelganger of a human character, represent his or her better self or darkest fears, or bear the brunt of a human character's misery.

In these stories, Tinti walks lonely paths of pain as if she owned a trail map. They are written boldly, without a misstep or false note whether she's writing about anthropomorphic zoo giraffes on strike in "Reasonable Terms" or an untamable and unbreakable woman in "Miss Waldron's Red Colobus." The result is a prodigious debut full of dark humor, style and compassion that sets the bar extraordinarily high for Tinti in the future.

Ian Schwartz writes from New York City.

 

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