The Animals in That Country is launched!

04.02.2020

Hi res final cover

So thrilled and proud and overwhelmed and more than a little excited that THE ANIMALS IN THAT COUNTRY is out and roaming the world. Releasing a pandemic book into a global pandemic is very odd, to say the least. I hope everyone is okay out there!

The recording of the book launch is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEpB5TIz-Ew

There were so many moments of wonder at the book launch – along with the lovely chat messages and the octopus dancing – Sophie Cunningham’s speech just took my breath away like an excellent 80s song. Here it is:

The Animals in That Country launch notes
Sophie Cunningham

This novel is so many things that I don’t quite know where to start. Laura’s use of language
is perhaps the place. She builds a web of words, you find yourself caught in that web and
then the webbing turns into a cocoon and soon you forget there is a world outside it. I
literally gasped when I finished the novel. It was (to wildly mix my metaphors) like being
dumped by a wave. That sense of total absorption then: bam. We’re done now. Fuck off
and be in the real world. (This is a sweary novel, and it makes you want to swear).
This ending is miraculous in so many ways, ways I don’t want to overly elaborate on for
fear of spoiling the novel, but I can say that the ending is miraculous because it enacts a
moment of conclusion. Of something that seems endless drawing to a close. And a jolt of
recognition that you may not, in fact, want closure though it’s been all you can hold onto
when you’ve been deep inside that experience.

The novel is about many things, including the ways in which human beings, as individuals
and as a community, can be shaken out of complacency by rapidly escalating events. The
shake down is not pleasant or expected, but it holds within it moments such intensity that
you could call those moments, joyful. There is a sense of Jean, the main character, being
forced to be so totally PRESENT to her situation that it is irrelevant whether that situation
is good, or bad (though, spoiler alert, it’s often quite bad).

Everyone listening will know — how could you not — that The Animals in that Country is
about what happens when a woman and members of her kind-of family find themselves
struggling for survival as a pandemic takes hold. It’s not impossible that Laura, who I don’t
know very well but seems very nice, is in fact evil, and has, with the help of the evil Cora
Roberts, and the evil Scribe, come up with the most kick arse marketing campaign
devised in human history. If that’s the case, I salute your evil, and perhaps, reconfigure it
as amorality. For humans are animals and animals are, as this novel describes, capable
of almost anything.

For yes, another thing this novel is about, in the literal plot sense, is the symptoms of the
flu that everyone is catching. And one of those symptoms is that people begin to hear
animals talk — though whether they can actually translate or understand what they
hear is another question. This takes us to some very dark places.

Do we want to know what pigs that have been fattened up for market and then left in a
truck on the highway to die are thinking? No we do not. We really do not. But this novel
forces us to listen, as Jean is being forced to listen. The family member that Jean is
listening to most is the love of her live, her daughter mother goddess: a dingo called
Sue. At this level the novel is a love letter to dingoes. It’s also a reminder not to fuck
with dingoes. You will discover all this for yourselves as you read. But SUE FOR
PRIME MINISTER I say.

Just as an aside – I teach creative writing and one of the things I was taken with was the
craft of this novel. The simplicity at the centre of it. I imagined Laura sitting at her desk,
in Victorian Bronte-style garb and a P-2 mask — thinking: What if I took a pandemic
plot, an on the road thriller, and a talking animals novel and mashed them all together.
What then?

What then is amazing.
I can’t finish without paying my respects to Laura’s stylistic bravura. I found myself
thinking, at moments of the wonderful Dog Boy by Eva Hornung then saw that Laura
mentions that novel in her acknowledgments. That said, The Animals in That Country is
more off the charts crazy. At times it’s more poem than novel. The — sometimes minimal
— word and phrases gesture at so many meanings it is both dazzling and, at times,
confounding. Who IS yesterday? Who IS tomorrow?
The Animals in That Country is about em. bodi. ment. It’s about generational
relationships. It asks, what is an animal? What is a family? It’s about the disintegration
and reintegration of language. It’s about a whole new way of seeing and configuring the
world. The animals in that country is, for the several hundred pages it has you in its web,
about everything, all at once. So, since you can’t go to the beach for a while, read this
and you’ll feel dumped, held under, then feel as if you’ve washed up on the sand and
been left gulping for air by the end of it.
Cheers etc.

 

Sophie Cunningham.jpg

 

Sophie Cunningham is the author of five books, City of Trees, GeographyBirdMelbourne, and Warning: The Story of Cyclone Tracy. She is a former publisher and editor, was a co-founder of the Stella Prize and is now an Adjunct Professor at RMIT University’s Non/fiction Lab. In 2019 Sophie Cunningham was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her contributions to literature.