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The Dominant Animal

UK Publisher: Daunt Books
US Publisher: MCD x FSG

A collection of innovative and ambitious short stories from a visionary young literary artist.

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, and a ferocious attention to rhythm and sound results in a palpable pulse of excitability and distress. The nature of love is questioned at a golf course, a flower shop, an all-you-can-eat buffet. The clay head of a man is bought and displayed as a trophy. Interior life manifests on the physical plane, where characters—human and animal—eat and breathe, provoke and injure one another.

With exquisite control, Scanlan moves from expansive moods and fine afternoons to unease and violence—and also from deliberate and generative ambiguity to shocking, revelatory exactitude. Disturbances accrue as the collection progresses. How often the conclusions open—rather than tie—up. How they twist alertly. No mercy, a character says—and these stories are merciless and strange and absolutely masterful.


‘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

“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

“A deeply enjoyable book . . . atmospheric with fear and shock, threat and disorientation . . . Through the power of her vision, Scanlan takes hold of the world and gives it to the reader with an intensity that is, paradoxically, both strange and familiar . . . Scanlan requires that the reader remain sharply vigilant: a feeling that lingers long after finishing the book and will, perhaps, be part of what draws people back.” – David Hayden, The Guardian (Book of the Day)

“Every word is precise and brutal . . . [A] sense of metamorphosisi combined with the fact that no technology is mentioned throughout, gives her stories a timeless, fable-esque quality . . . [The stories] are enigmatic, unsettling and tinged with body horror; funny, cruel and minutely repulsive in places. But they are also cinematic, with strange images that are as ephemeral as they are memorable . . . a brilliant, unsettling collection.” – Lucy Watson, Financial Times

“[Scanlan’s] work offers its own canted mix of eroticism and absurdism, its own gnarled comedy of gender and class . . . At their best, her stories make other writers’ work seem fatty and uptight . . . Scanlan’s stories tell you almost nothing—which, in these cacophonous times, is the mark of a true radical.” – Jeremy Lybarger, 4Columns

“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

Kathryn Scanlan’s work has appeared in NOON, Granta, Egress and New York Tyrant amongst others. She's received fellowships from the Vermont...