A diverse compendium of imaginative flights—into fantasy, science fiction, realism, techno-politics, mythology, and the surreal—The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales introduces Matt Runkle as a fearless writer allergic to boring sentences. Driven by fascinating characters and the technical and lyrical possibilities of language, these stories share an overt kinship with Donald Barthelme and Aimee Bender in their playfulness and scope, yet there’s an inquisitiveness in the various twists and turns that reminds one of John Ashbery, and at times, when certain dark undercurrents break the surface, Paul Bowles. Runkle has the uncanny ability to extract meaningful psychological drama from absurd situations, which he serves to the reader with a dash of dark humor and wit.
Animals Are Equal
& Other Tales
by Matt Runkle
Pub Date: December 1, 2014
In the late empire the stories are better than ever, especially if Matt Runkle is the teller of the tale. Not since Richard Brautigan’s Tokyo Montana Express have I read a collection of stories as wildly unpredictable, stories that itch your ear for a long time after reading them. Spontaneity, Accuracy, and Mystery are the three things Elizabeth Bishop says make a great poem. I am applying her three markers to Runkle’s stories today, perfect in every way! The Story of How All Animals Are Equal is an instant American classic!
Did you ever dream of what the perfect collection of short fiction would be like? For me I have sometimes fantasized about a writer who can encompass the quotidian alterity of George Saunders, the cryptic brevity of Lydia Davis, the mythmaking magic of Percival Everett, and something of the calm, pale heartbreak of the late Mavis Gallant. Matt Runkle’s new book goes a long way towards taking you into this imaginary kingdom, and I recommend it wholeheartedly. From children to pensioners, from rich to poor and back again, through the vagaries of the animal kingdom, Runkle’s stories turn on character, and they don’t stop until he’s got the right form in which to showcase an amazing talent.
Matt Runkle makes the ordinary strange, and the strange surreal. No icon of American culture escapes his scrutiny. A walk down a hospital corridor reveals the outrageous inequality of contemporary health care, embodied in “little tiles of wealth,” while an attempt to read a book becomes a frantic quest to turn “friends into followers.” This brilliant and hilarious collection defies genre, and reminds us that imagination is the original app: “I mean something so funny it changes you forever, eyes widened not in cuteness but in horror. Why else would your trick have so carelessly hidden his dollhouse? … When you leave the door open, there’s no escaping the night.”
“Runkle proves to be a fearless proponent of imaginative power and willingness to push boundaries.”
“The images, in addition to the sentences, are crystalline, pretty, and border on bizarre. On the sentence level, readers will be driven forward by language that feels like one of Runkle’s texturized collages.”
“[T]he stories I enjoyed most were ones that broke my heart, that showed me something about the strangeness of being human.”
“Runkle has a gift for delicately crafted prose, and there are passages that read so exquisitely that they are worth the price of the book in themselves.”
“Runkle excels at openings, delicately placing the reader into even the most absurd scenarios with only a few words. . . . [H]ighly imaginative and uncanny . . . these stories, however, are told with fresh, stunning language. Runkle creates an array of worlds that will at different times surprise, confuse and entertain.”
Interview with Michelle Embree:
“This collection is striking. I am taken with the use of language– it is almost as if any word could have a double meaning in these stories and that expands to the sentences and the characters.”
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