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Animal Crackers [Paperback]

Hannah Tinti
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 Mar 2005
A zoo worker, cautiously washing down Marysue the elephant, considers the strange, grim fragments he's heard of his co-workers' lives. Giraffes demand better living conditions and stage a mock group suicide. A girl escapes her repressive finishing school to find freedom with the monkeys in the African jungle. Snake or dog, buffalo, cat or turkey, each animal in Hannah Tinti's brilliant, darkly comic collection holds up a disturbing mirror to the human beings around it.

Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Review; New Ed edition (7 Mar 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0755307453
  • ISBN-13: 978-0755307456
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 12.8 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,524,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


'While Tinti writes well about things that slither and crawl, what's most impressive is her understanding of human loneliness. These stories resonate with one mournful grace-note after another... Tinti delivers with poise uncommon among first-time writers. Like Edgar Allan Poe and Patricia Highsmith, [she] has a brilliant feel for the uncanny' Scotland on Sunday (Scotland on Sunday)

[A] lovely and exotic zoo of short stories... Funny, off the wall, economical and bright with inventive language... This is my advice to reluctant short story readers: buy this collection for the bus into town, for the 20-minute train journey, for the five minutes before you go to sleep at night, and you will have animal fun all day and in your dreams at night' Leeds Guide (Leeds Guide)

'Tinti revisits the familiar territory of the American short story - troubled homes, dysfunctional families and peevish marriages - but gives it a shot of grotesque vigour through these connections to the animal kingdom. They're tart and unnerving with a delicious shudder of gothic.' Guardian, 02/04/05 (Guardian)

'Tinti can hook a reader with a first sentence' New York Metro (New York Metro)

'Eleven lively, original, but rather black short stories ... Not a book for the faint-hearted' Bournemouth Daily Echo, 06/05/05 (Bournemouth Daily Echo)

'Children and beasts of all sorts dominate Hannah Tinti's first book... a quirky, often disturbing collection. Hers is a world where things are jarringly out of kilter, a world of transformation, casual violence and twisted feelings... Animals and humans alike, Tinti gets under their skin' Daily Mail (Lee Langley) (Daily Mail (Lee Langley))

'Don't be deceived by the animals prancing about the cover of this short-story collection. There are dark, dark tales within... Tinti laces her stories with a fine thread of black humour... Refreshingly original, bold and accomplished' Glasgow Herald (Glasgow Herald)

'Tinti revisits the familiar territory of the American short story - troubled homes, dysfunctional families and peevish marriages - but gives it a shot of grotesque vigour through these connections to the animal kingdom. They're tart and unnerving with a delicious shudder of gothic.' Guardian, 02/04/05 (Guardian)

'Tinti writes a sharp, snappy, deadpan prose that shifts easily between black, knockabout comedy and a more tender form of irony. This is a witty, lively and inventive collection of stories' Telegraph (Saturday Telegraph)

'A stunning new writer. These are important stories and they really are crackers - told with tremendous wit, brilliance and verve. They may well be the 'Just So' stories of our troubled times' Roger Deakin (author of Waterlog: A Swimmer's Journey Through Britain) (Roger Deakin (author of WATERLOG: A Swimmer's Jour)

'At times her style recalls Flannery O'Connor; the stories embedded with incidental Gothic details ... considerable writing skill' Independent on Sunday (Independent on Sunday)

Book Description

'A witty, lively and inventive collection' Daily Telegraph

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for animal lovers! 8 Jan 2008
By kehs TOP 1000 REVIEWER
With this collection of eleven stories Tinti has set out to play chilling mind games with her readers and she has certainly succeeded. These are out and out shock horrors and extremely imaginatively written. Each tale is weirdly wonderful but grotesque and will chill you to the bone. Unbalanced adults and children feature in these disturbing tales and will cause you to wonder how well you really know the people around you. Hints of Animal Farm, Dr Dolittle and Life of Pi litter these stories, but take heed - they are not to be recommended to animal lovers!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyably grotesque 10 Jun 2012
A good collection of intriguing and disturbing stories. Out of the stories there were two I thought were dull and unintersting but having enjoyed nine out of the eleven I was pleased to have read them. Animals were a tenuous link for one of the stories but other than this it was an enjoyable few hours of reading. I read a story a night, spreading out the entertainment. I'd happily seek out other work by this author and would be interested to see if she could maintain the quality of writing over a novel as opposed to short stories.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Impressive and Engaging Debut 2 May 2004
By Bookreporter - Published on
"Everyone who works with animals has a mark somewhere," observes an elephant keeper in the title story of Hannah Tinti's debut short story collection, ANIMAL CRACKERS. For some these marks are physical --- Sandy, who is in charge of the monkey house, has a scar across her face where a gorilla bit her; another elephant keeper has lost an arm. But for others, the marks are deeply psychological: Mike, a failed poet, trains sea lions and tries to pawn his chapbooks to zoogoers, and Ann sells tickets while obsessively guarding her bald cat.
"Animal Crackers" is a fitting introduction to the ten stories that follow, all of which explore characters' relationships with various animals and how they locate meaning in giraffes at the zoo, a neighbor's cat, a stuffed bear in a museum, or an ex-boyfriend's snake. Tinti, who co-founded and edits the literary magazine One Story, mines these human/animal interactions for surprisingly effective metaphors that eloquently reveal her characters' views of themselves and the world around them.
In "Reasonable Terms," three giraffes go on strike for better habitat conditions. Lying prone on the ground, their eyes rolled back and their tongues lolling out, they play dead and refuse to entertain their audiences. The predicament causes the zookeeper to reflect on his own marriage: "The zookeeper looked at the animals prostrate in the dirt and was reminded of pre-Darwinian concepts of evolution --- that the length of giraffes' necks was determined by stretching to obtain what they desire. He wondered if this kind of despair was inside Matilda." Tinti does not focuses solely on the human element: playing equal roles are giraffes Doe, Francesco, and especially Lulu, who learns to astral project herself and visits the zookeeper's dreams.
Tinti has a taste for bittersweet whimsy, which often results in stories marked by a wide-eyed magical realism. In "Preservation," Mary, the daughter of a well-known artist, works late afternoons and evenings restoring murals in a museum diorama. But when the museum gallery empties of visitors, a stuffed bear in the middle of the room seems to come to life. Tinti wisely underplays the effect, letting it complement and ultimately represent Mary's gradual realization of her father's mortality.
An entire collection of such concept-heavy stories risks repetition or inconsequentiality, but fortunately ANIMAL CRACKERS isn't intended as a stunt and Tinti doesn't make animals the center of every piece. In several stories, they play merely a tangential or sometimes abstract role. In "Hit Man of the Year," for example, a bison on a buffalo nickel symbolizes love and extinction for an Italian mob hitman. Dark and affecting, "Bloodworks" barely mentions a neighbor's cat until the last few pages when the story, about the parents of an increasingly menacing child, has grown bleakly unresolvable and nightmarishly hopeless. That this story can exist so closely and naturally with lighter fare like "Gallus gallus" --- which features, among other oddball characters, a man who never learned to tie his shoes --- reveals Tinti's considerable range of tone and emotion.
Not everything in ANIMAL CRACKERS works quite so well, however. Tinti's style is streamlined and focused, and every element is perfectly calibrated to exact a particular emotion from the reader or to reinforce a specific theme in the material. Such control is impressive, but too often, as in "Hit Man of the Year" and "Gallus gallus," it chokes the stories of spontaneity and creates the sense that the characters do not extend beyond the boundaries of the first and last sentences.
Tinti's conceptual derring-do occasionally outstrips her practical abilities, but ANIMAL CRACKERS remains an impressive and engaging debut from an author who has no fear of sticking her neck out.
--- Reviewed by Stephen M. Deusner
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disquieting and Riveting 24 Mar 2004
By A Customer - Published on
The reader who comes to Tinti's tales expecting a tame petting zoo will, with swiftly mounting unease, realize that he has instead entered a darkly dangerous den. Each story in this collection is tightly coiled and poised to strike. The animals are endowed with preternatural intelligence and will. More disturbingly, the human characters evince a vicious predatory streak and an incalculability of action and reaction. By upending our perceptions of man and beast, Tinti keeps us deliciously off-balance. Her unflinching descriptions and trenchant insights combine to make Animal Crackers a riveting and haunting read.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Menagerie of Wonderful Words 2 Mar 2004
By A Customer - Published on
I read every page of this magical book with the excitement of discovering something new about myself and the world we share. Tinti's insight into the soul of every character, and the way she magically imbues animals with a prescient lens into the human condition, will touch you in a way like no other collection of short stories I've ever read has done before. Realizing this is her first book, I can't wait to see what else springs from the imagination of this new talent! Whatever it is, Tinti's books, current and future, like her storied animal companions, will roar!
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Short Stories That Entertain and Scare You 24 Mar 2004
By A Customer - Published on
Tinti uses animals in a clever way to reveal something fundamentally human about all of the characters that inhabit the magical and beautiful stories in her collection. The stories evoke an emotional response deeply disturbing because they arise from events created by well developed characters that have a piece of us in them. My recommendation is to read the stories and then hold up a mirror -- Tinti will grab you in her web of literary precision.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, not great. Forgettable. 8 Dec 2012
By smele - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a book that I have read once and probably will never read again. It's not to say that Tinti's stories weren't good, simply that they are forgettable to my mind, and not one stuck out as "Wow! This is one of the best things I've ever read! Let me pull that out again."

Animal Crackers is bound together by the idea of animals in the lives of Hannah Tinti's characters, and what I did like about this collection was the way that Tinti shows the ways her characters are coping with the problems in their lives. Tinti's characters are all strange people, but in a depressing way. There's a desperately lonely woman who tries to curb the loneliness with the snake her ex-boyfriend left behind and makes a list of the snake's favorite things. A housewife murders her husband's lover, but turns off the stove and oven before leaving the house. A hitman waits for a couple to finish their dessert before shooting the woman, and then shoots the man before he notices that she's dead (a lovely act, in a twisted way). When a mother sees her son throwing his rabbit out of a window for the last time, she doesn't ever think, "My son is a wretched little demon-spawn", she's wondering if the rabbit remembered the last time he was thrown out of a window, if he was afraid, or if he was having fun. It's these little details that add so much to characters.

Overall, I enjoyed Tinti's writing. It wasn't pretentious or flowery, and her style doesn't make the stories drag. It's an enjoyable debut collection, it just wasn't memorable or mind-blowing to me.
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