A fable for our times, Joni Murphy’s Talking Animals takes place in an all animal world where creatures rather like us are forced to deal with an all-too-familiar landscape of soul-crushing jobs, polluted oceans, and a creeping sense of doom.
It’s New York City, nowish. Lemurs brew espresso. Birds tend bar. There are bears on Wall Street, and a billionaire racehorse is mayor. Sea creatures are viewed with fear and disgust and there’s chatter about building a wall to keep them out.
Alfonzo is a moody alpaca. His friend Mitchell is a sociable llama. They both work at City Hall, but their true passions are noise music and underground politics. Partly to meet girls, partly because the world might be ending, these lowly bureaucrats embark on an unlikely mission to expose the corrupt system that’s destroying the city from within. Their project takes them from the city’s bowels to its extremities, where they encounter the Sea Equality Revolutionary Front, who are either a group of dangerous radicals or an inspiring liberation movement.
In this novel, at last, nature kvetches and grieves, while talking animals offer us a kind of solace in the guise of dumb jokes. This is mass extinction as told by BoJack Horseman. This is The Fantastic Mr. Fox journeying through Kafka’s Amerika. This is dogs and cats, living together. Talking Animals is an urgent allegory about friendship, art, and the elemental struggle to change one’s life under the low ceiling of capitalism.
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Calgary Public Library
Double Teenage tells the story of two young teenagers (best friends, Celine and Julie) who are coming of age in the 1990s along the US-Mexico border — a place where nothing seems to happen, but only because what counts as ‘something’ is defined by far-off centres of power. In their small, desert town and small-scale life, they become a twin pair. Through their love of theatre, they find their way into a wider world, rich with opportunity, but at the same time, dense with situations of peril and violence.
This unrelenting novel shines a spotlight on the paradoxes of Western culture — obsessed with depictions of fantasy sexual violence, while at the same time, willfully blind to the many ways in which desire and hurt twine together in real life; where angry, emotional, and loving girls have been told time and again that they overthink things; where survival goes hand-in-hand with trauma and witnessing; where art, books, movies, TV, and plays work to both shield us from reality and also help us to face it, and powerful healing rituals can be made out of everyday material goods — hoodie sweatshirts, homemade alcoholic punch, joints, and blood pacts. In this way, Double Teenage ultimately offers a way through violence into an emotionally alive place beyond the trap of girlhood.