Happy Book Birthday to Joni Murphy’s Talking Animals! Murphy’s first novel, Double Teenage, was named by The Globe and Mail as a Best Book of 2016. If you liked Double Teenage, you’re going to love Talking Animals. A fable for our times, 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. Chris Kraus writes, “Joni Murphy’s inventive and beautiful allegory depicts a city enmeshed in climate collapse, blinded to the signs of its imminent destruction by petty hatreds and monstrous greed: that is, the world we are living in now. Talking Animals is an Orwellian tale of totalitarianism in action, but the animals on this farm are much cuter, and they make better puns.”
We’re honoured to share such a wise, timely, and deeply funny and poignant book with readers, some of whom may already be familiar with New York City Transit. (You can still read the book if you’re not; we won’t tell anyone.)
Please enjoy the following excerpt from Talking Animals, which you can either order from our online shop or from your local independent bookstore.
Utopia of Rules
It was the start of some August Friday. The green-copper, brown-gold island gleamed. The park exhaled a cool sigh held from the night before.
Alfonzo Velloso Faca—student of urban behaviour, public servant, and brown, fluffy, big-eyed alpaca—emerged from the subway. He trotted along with the great flock of animals coming to Manhattan to make their dough. The crowd was large yet hushed. Everyone felt good because it wasn’t humid for a change.
When the traffic lulled, Alfonzo dashed across Broadway and entered his favourite coffee shop, the Early Cenozoic. He hummed a few versions of a joke, and when it was his turn with the lemur barista he tried one out. She’d been working there since late spring but he had yet to establish a rapport.
“Did you hear the news?” he asked. “Some sea animals escaped from the aquarium.”
“No! Did this just happen? Was it an uprising? Which aquarium?” The lemur clutched a mug, her eyes wide. Her machine hissed, temporarily forgotten. In the short line behind Alfonzo, a German shepherd was tapping her tail against the counter and a raccoon was fiddling with his newspaper.
Alfonzo had imagined more banter around the joke. He hadn’t anticipated her seriousness. He stumbled. “I mean. It didn’t happen in reality. I just— I heard it was otter chaos.”
The music that had been playing reached its conclusion, leaving a silence for Alfonzo to squirm in. He felt like he’d shoved a used tissue into her paw. He watched the barista take his pun, turn it over and around in English until she saw what it was. “Oh. Utter like otter.” Finally she bestowed upon him a slight nod, releasing them both from this snare of awkwardness.
Alfonzo added a wheat-grass cake he didn’t really want to his coffee order and left a large tip as a mea culpa. Slinking toward the door, he heard the lemur apologizing to the shepherd for the wait.
Joni Murphy is a writer from New Mexico who lives in New York. Her debut novel Double Teenage was published by Book*hug Press in 2016. It was named one of The Globe and Mail’s 100 Best Books of the Year.