Animals in Motion

Animals in Motion

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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.

“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….”

                                                   —Kirkus (Starred review)


Ryan’s prose is precise, often blunt, and always evocative. The conceits for his stories are very original and never predictable. Some of the stories border on being dreamlike, while others are purely realistic, but always any definitive conclusions hover just out of reach, close enough to savor through multiple reads. This book is a great choice for any lover of well-written stories.”


“Ryan’s collection triumphs as a spiritual and cerebral journey through oft-ignored parts of the human—and animal—psyche.”

Publishers Weekly


“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


“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


“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, author of
Double Feature: A Novel


“Penance, mercy, regret, menace, love: the characters in Animals in Motion grasp for the last crucial parts of themselves, while the stories they populate cradle them and tenderly take scalpels to their hearts. At the periphery, animals stalk, haunt, and yield to sacrifice. “Pharmaceutical grade,” says a businesswoman, holding a bag of white powder out to a narrator she has mistaken for someone else. David Ryan’s writing is like that—startling and pure, it will blast into your brain, where you will feel its effects linger for a long, long time.”

—Nelly Reifler, author of
Elect H. Mouse State Judge


“David Ryan writes with impressive versatility, in both prose style and subject matter, but always with empathy, insight, and panache. Animals in Motion is a superb and gritty collection of stories.”

—Teddy Wayne, author of
The Love Story of Johnny Valentine


“The unforgettable characters in this remarkably original collection are the lonely and the lost—who wouldn’t dream of asking for our sympathy and, for just this reason, we give them all we have. Says one, ‘You get to where all you see are the spaces between people passing on the street.’ It’s on those very spaces, perhaps empty to the rest of us, that David Ryan trains his eye and from which he draws his vivid art. Another character concludes that he has ‘a small talent for silence.’ Ryan’s talent, on the other hand, is large indeed and lyrically sonic.”

—Douglas Bauer, author of
What Happens Next?: Matters of Life and Death


“Wow, these stories are good. They are elegant and stealthy and tender, even as they dramatize our more animal passions, the longing and regret especially. Often startling for how they’ve been put together, the ingenuity is matched only by the excellence of Ryan’s sentence making.”

—Fiona Maazel, author of
Woke Up Lonely