Grant Tarbard reviews ‘Fates of the Animals’ by Padrika Tarrant



This is Padrika Tarrant’s third book, Fates of the Animals, following Broken Things (Salt 2007) and The Knife Drawer (Salt 2011), also published by Salt, the alkaline in Cromer’s cliffs, comes this book of very short stories that live in a mixing bowl of clipped fairy tales, fag butt fables and the animals associated with them, the barking of the dog is relentless as choking. Tales of hyacinth girls expanding on Eliot, love stories of daughters of reputable figures and angels with Kleptomania. It is at turns delicate, creepy and always with a wink to the camera knowing that there’s diamonds in the stone cold ground beneath the ink. Through it all there is a sense of a unifying force, like the Marvel comics universe, and Tarrant is Stan Lee. Excelsior true believers!

I’m going to focus on two shorts here, as I could write a whole book about Tarrant’s world, but we are fools to the word limit. The book begins with The Music of the Foxes, a Hughes-esque tale with traits of Crow.
There is a strange relationship between humans and foxes, in their cries in the night, like a babe that’s been snatched, a child crying in the alley at midnight. No wonder that the fox is thought to have served as a witches familiar, even as the form into which a witch transform. Perhaps that anxiety goes back to the goddess Hecate, fond of the black she-dog, indeed the core of a foxes being, to humans, is otherworldly, and this is echoed in Tarrant’s first line:

When all the world was bald, flat path, the vixen trotted its length like the grin of a god.

The music of the foxes is considered as one word filled with pins; 

Shak. The noise that a fox makes when she sings is a Shak, shrill and high; sharp at its core, rich as Ribena.

Rich as Ribena? Ribena isn’t particularly rich, it’s sugar that stains the lips and makes the throat sore. Why not rich as claret? Simple really, it wouldn’t sound right. The language flies with music.

In the last passage we see that the vixen has formed the earth and the old oil paint melancholy of jealousy of creator and created, the son eclipses the father and on it goes. The world is made in the vixen’s wake, roads are laid behind her and the detritus of the earth, bus tickets and cars, follow.

Shak! Spoke the vixen, streaming her song down her back behind the flow of her tail, and everything in the world shone pale and black and red, just as glorious and cruel and full of jealous beauty as can be.

I imagine that all sounds of the world are animated with the vixen’s final unheard Shak, it’s there in the paint.

The Little Boy Who Lied is woven with ethereal materials; the decreasing glow of a flash bulb’s element, yellowing paper, attic dust and memory’s flimsy grasp of a person’s past lives – Trapped between the film and the cardboard, the cracks and the tea stains and the gelatine-silver years, there is a sepia child in a sailor suit

This short leaves a copper taste of The Shining at the back of your eyes, you could turn around the corner and encounter the mangled Grady twins, you feel the urgency of a missing child. A disembodied child searching for eyes to see through – But the eyes; he squeezed his fingers tight against the palm of his hand. He wanted the eyes. They had sharp edges and were drawing blood inside his hot fist.

One could happily wallow in the deep imagery of Tarrant’s prose: They searched a long time for Amelia, lifting bedcovers as gingerly as grave-robbers

Tarrant’s book of stories claps in blacked rooms, has a smile as wide as the Ripper’s blade, prowls in midnight back alleys until the threadbare structure of the world’s bones has some meat. It’s not jaded, it has wonder, she would stop to gain knowledge of leaves ballet dancing down in a purple sky, and that’s a rarity nowadays in this cynical world of austerity and celebrity. They could even be read to children as bedtime stories, and that is the greatest compliment I think I could give.





Order your copy of Fates of the Animals, published by Salt, here:

Comments are closed.