In contrast to the neighborhood settings of Tales from Outer Suburbia (2009), this collection of 25 illustrated poems and stories explores the dynamics between animals and humans amid breathtakingly imaginative scenes in skyscrapers and gutters.
Evocative openings compel continued reading: “One afternoon the members of the board all turned into frogs.” Exploiting the double meaning of the titular “inner,” Tan’s (The Singing Bones, 2016, etc.) ideas are dressed in elegant language that creates the particular within cosmic constructs varying in length, voice, and mood. A horror story about a monster shark finally thwarted—only to keep reproducing—is less terrifying in the first-person plural. The intimate second-person transforms the reader into a toddler communing with wondrous spirit horses in a car’s back seat. His consistent ability to delight the mind with fresh theater yields both provocation and restoration. When dead waterways bring about fishing in sky currents, an elusive catch leads a group of boys to experience the relationship between quick decay and fleeting value; yet, as the discovered roe are released heavenward, “here it was, the third great gift of the moonfish: an upward shower of golden sparks, a benediction of transcendental caviar, and remorse.” The paintings within or concluding each tale are characterized by layers of glorious color, shadowy corners, dazzling luminosity, surreal situations, and ethereal beauty. They invite lingering, wondering: Ultimately, who will have the last word—or is there another question?
Read and reread slowly, savoring every nugget. (Fiction. 12-adult)