"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." —Chris Kraus, author of I Love Dick and After Kathy Acker
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.
In this bighearted if flawed eco-fiction satire, pun-loving alpaca Alfonzo Velloso Faca takes on corruption and climate change. The novel's sweeping opening describes an alternate-reality New York City populated by a menagerie of talking animals, a hierarchical city arranged by "unwritten laws of class, order, family, genus, and species." Alfonzo, the son of immigrant Bolivian camelids, toils in the city's Department of Records. He is also nearing completion of a dissertation in mammalian studies "that would tease out the myth of empire from the unwashed raw wool of reality." Rot is all around him, from the city's venal equine mayor (the scion of an elite family), to the polluted, rising oceans and the troubling demonization of sea creatures ("They hate our legs and our free society," claims a porcine city hall official). Alfonzo's best friend, a llama named Mitchell, introduces him to the nonviolent Sea Equality Revolutionary Front (SERF) and embroils him in an effort to expose the mayor's graft and bring down his antisea administration. The intrigue takes its time heating up and never fully comes to a boil, and speechifying abounds in the dialogue. Murphy has great fun animalizing the streets of N.Y.C. and writes beautiful paeans to the sea, but the gags, heady sociological riffs, and lyricism can't quite sustain the novel.