“The Dominant Animal”

Kathryn Scanlan’s collection of short stories, The Dominant Animal, is unusual on a number of levels – if not actually surreal.

The really nicely produced book (from Daunt Books Originals) weighs in at just 118 pages, yet it contains forty stories. That’s right, at an average of just under 3 pages per story. Some of the ‘stories’ are less than a page long. All of which I think makes them a collection of vignettes rather than stories, especially when the vast majority do not really conform to any tradition notion of ‘plot’.

Indeed, there seems very little convention to which Scanlan’s work does adhere (including how the stories are written and the language and structures used), so you find yourself on a bizarre roller-coster of narratives whose subject-matter is often hard and harsh.

None of the above stops the book from being strangely hypnotic, however, and I reached the end with a vague sense of having had ‘an experience’ rather than having been told ‘a story’. I have another of Scanlan’s books – a novel – on my reading pile, so it will be interesting to see how that shapes up.

If you feel like trying something left-field and experimental, you could do much worse than The Dominant Animal.

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