Fiction. A giant elk is trapped inside the yard of a family of teenaged boys while their tyrannical father gradually shrinks to the size of a doll. A World War II veteran living at a Laurel Canyon ranch in the late '60s faces the threat of changing times and a disturbing, soon to be famous, cult at the next ranch over. A former Olympic contender, after an injury leaves him with a glass eye, takes work as a security guard at the mansion of a ruthless CEO. A child who discovers the scene of a bizarre and unexplained crash in Roswell, New Mexico, fashions the rest of his life through the lens of what he found there...
With language at turns diamond sharp and stone blunt, the thirteen stories of David Ryan's dark and edgy debut, ANIMALS IN MOTION, map the existence of their characters through the uncharted world of the psyche. The animals that mysteriously appear suggest a leveling, a weave of human experience with that of the natural world. A landscape alive in the space between thought and impulse, where present circumstances are ruled by memories of the past, and where conscious reality is trumped by greater truths of the imagination. ANIMALS IN MOTION presents an often surreal yet consistently beautiful tapestry of American despair and hope.
"There is not a word wasted in this powerful debut collection. I think that David Ryan has set a course that will influence many other writers, anyone who values language that is taut and precise, characters whose response to their ruin is, in effect, 'Bring it on, and important concerns that claim a reader's attention in the most persuasive ways possible."—Amy Hempel
"David Ryan's collection ANIMALS IN MOTION is whip-smart and stunning. Stark, lyrical, and unsettling, these stories resonate with the grit of Denis Johnson and Raymond Carver and help us imagine new possibilities for the short story form."—Joe Meno
"David Ryan is a 21st century Steinbeck. His stories are contemplations on the restless soul, lost and meandering through a wilderness of casinos, glass box office buildings, baggage claims, and KFC. The world of ANIMALS IN MOTION is stark and brutal, but teeming with humanity, wit, heart, and spirit. The complexity beneath Ryan's bare-bones prose puts ANIMALS IN MOTION on the shelf of books to be read again and again."—Julia Slavin
"ANIMALS IN MOTION is a revelatory collection, full of gripping stories set in the borderland between reality and dream. David Ryan is a tough-minded but deceptively lyrical writer, with an engagingly dark sensibility."—Tom Perrotta
"The stories in David Ryan's debut collection tack nimbly between terrible unease and terrible beauty. He's a diabolical craftsman. You wouldn't trust him for a minute, except you find you have no choice."—Owen King
"From the first page of ANIMALS IN MOTION one is immersed in the precisionist's world, filled with startling light, stunning events, exquisitely captured moments—a haunting world of which the reader has a particularly wide-angled view. Story after story Ryan works his unique magic, showing us a world as mystifying as it is mundane. This recognition, that the ordinary is very strange indeed, is at the heart of these quiet but searing stories. ANIMALS IN MOTION is a marvel."—Frederick Barthelme
"A debut collection of stories—one of the best in recent memory—that finds psychological acuity within characters who are unreflective or even impenetrable. Ryan has plainly been honing his craft, because the 13 tales here are the work of a writer who knows exactly what he's doing—and challenges the reader to figure out how he's doing it. Not that the stories are difficult or experimental, but they often seem to begin at a point where nothing is clear—who the protagonist is, what the situation is, where the tale is headed—and then they unfold as consciousness might, not in a linear fashion but making revelations through association or omission; those revelations might be clearer to the reader than to the characters. In 'The Canyon,' one of the last holdouts among Laurel Canyon ranchers of the late 1960s finds himself caught between a group of catatonic hippies (who may well be the Manson Family) and aggressive developers; the taciturn protagonist draws on what he learned in the war, that '[i]t's too easy to cross certain lines.' 'The Good Life' is a miniature marvel, one paragraph that lasts barely more than a page but is a fully formed story nonetheless—one of many here about characters failing to establish a connection. The narrator meets a former classmate and eventually realizes she's mistaken him for someone she knew better. 'I no longer understood who she was talking to,' he says as it dawns on him that her "good life" is a drug dealer's mirage. 'At Night' illuminates the unsettling relationship between a potentially dangerous voyeur and the waitress he stalks: 'In her unwitting world, he is God,' the disturbed man thinks. Two of the best and most ambitious stories, 'The Bull Elk' and 'Fidelity,' defy plot summary; as with most of these tales, relating what happens wouldn't really tell how they work. As the title suggests, there are animals throughout these stories, with the human ones as inscrutable as any."—KIRKUS starred review
David Ryan's stories have appeared in Tin House, BOMB, Fence, several Mississippi Review Prize issues, Booth, Denver Quarterly, Alaska Quarterly Review, New Orleans Review, Cimarron Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, failbetter, and elsewhere. Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, his fiction has been anthologized in Flash Fiction Forward (W.W. Norton); Boston Noir 2: the Classics (Akashic Books); and The Mississippi Review: 30 Years. A recipient of a MacDowell Colony fellowship and an arts grant from the state of Connecticut, he teaches in the writing program at Sarah Lawrence College.
Author City: BLACK ROCK, CT USA