When I Saw the Animal (Bernard Cohen, UQP)
A young man adopts a dog and unintentionally reveals the cracks in his family; a couple bicker over an undesired meal; a person slides slowly into insanity as a creature—or are there many?—invades his peripheral vision. Bernard Cohen’s bold new collection of short fiction, When I Saw the Animal, is pervaded by a sense of something uneasy pulsing just below the veneer of normality. Cohen’s delight in his concepts is palpable as he flips situations to examine them from a different perspective: ‘Waltzing Matilda’ retells the iconic song from the troopers’ perspectives, while ‘War against the Ungulates’ repositions animal agriculture as a battlefield. Cohen’s stories range from the deeply personal to the speculative, from intimate moments to epic journeys. His style is not quite economical, and he sometimes fumbles the balance between being too obvious and too obscure. Many of his stories are short, and this collection also includes several ‘short twos’ (two sentence microfictions) scattered throughout that act as an adrenal shot between the longer, deeper stories. When I Saw the Animal is often strange, but always complex, and would appeal to those who enjoy Australian short fiction with a contemporary and unique voice.
Catherine Moller is a writer and editor working with the Queensland Writers Centre and Alex Adsett Publishing Services