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Remarks on the Beasts: On Nick Francis Potter’s New Animals

new-animals

Nick Francis Potter’s New Animals (Subito Press) is a startling book, an unleashing of all-too-human humans and other monsters within wildly conceived spaces. While echoing Ben Marcus’s absurdist eviscerations of the nuclear family, George Saunders’s satirical takedowns of post-industrial society, and Brian Evenson’s bleak mind- and landscapes, Potter’s prose is its own animal.

These often bizarrely humorous, humorously bizarre short fictions—featuring sundry amputations and beheadings, resurrections, sacrificial killings, climbs into and out of holes, and a host of angels and “more than animals” animals—are suffused with an overwhelming sense of impending doom and certain death, with all the uncertainties coming before and presumably after the worst has happened. The book’s innumerable odd juxtapositions, engagingly clunky phrasings, and obsessive inventorying are all in service of several overarching projects, namely, a peculiar dissolving of genre boundaries, an imploding of narrative conventions, and a singular dismantling of fairy tales and fables, and, especially, of biblical stories.

The book’s art, all adroitly drawn by Potter, takes different forms: as chapter heading illustrations, as embedded pictures within other stories, or as standalone panel sequences. While less lexically dense than the other stories, Potter’s comics are certainly as visceral and darkly comical. Gnarled and barbed, the drawings sometimes bring to mind the Paleolithic cave paintings in Lascaux, Potter’s various beasts conjuring an odd evanescence, a similar air of mystery and menace.

In short, New Animals is where the wild things irreally are.

John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

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