Authors Anita Felicelli (Chimerica) and Joni Murphy (Talking Animals) discuss their latest novels and the roles that talking animals play in literary fiction.

As part of the Virginia Festival of the Book’s ongoing Shelf Life virtual series, this event is FREE to attend and open to the public. To attend, please register below to take part on Zoom or simply make plans to watch the livestream on Facebook.com/VaBookFest.

“Felicelli’s remarkable Chimerica is a coolly surrealist legal thriller—in turns sly, absurd, emotionally vivid, and satirically incisive—that shifts the reader into a world just adjacent to our own.”—Jonathan Lethem

Down-and-out Tamil American trial lawyer Maya Ramesh fights to save a painted lemur come to life, and in settings that range from Oakland, California, to a Malagasy rain forest, becomes a champion for them both. In magical realist tradition Anita Felicelli’s satiric novel, Chimerica, looks at the inherent absurdities that drive systems of culture, power, and law. Fans of Marquez, Kelly Link, and Helen Oyeyemi will find this book a spirited investigation of the ways in which art is codified and commodified—a contemporary philosophical, non-ideological, novel about art, originality, and American culture.

Talking Animals envisions an alternate history of Manhattan, this one cultivated by animals, but sans us human animals… The result is devilishly funny and sharply prescient, an Animal Farm for our times.”―The Millions

A fable for our times, Joni Murphy’s Talking Animals takes place in an all-animal world where creatures rather like us are forced to deal with an all-too-familiar landscape of soul-crushing jobs, polluted oceans, and a creeping sense of doom.

It’s New York City, now-ish. Lemurs brew espresso. Birds tend bar. There are bears on Wall Street, and a billionaire racehorse is mayor. Sea creatures are viewed with fear and disgust and there’s chatter about building a wall to keep them out.

Alfonzo is a moody alpaca. His friend Mitchell is a sociable llama. They both work at City Hall, but their true passions are noise music and underground politics. Partly to meet girls, partly because the world might be ending, these lowly bureaucrats embark on an unlikely mission to expose the corrupt system that’s destroying the city from within. Their project takes them from the city’s bowels to its extremities, where they encounter the Sea Equality Revolutionary Front, who are either a group of dangerous radicals or an inspiring liberation movement.

In this novel, at last, nature kvetches and grieves, while talking animals offer us a kind of solace in the guise of dumb jokes. This is mass extinction as told by BoJack Horseman. This is The Fantastic Mr. Fox journeying through Kafka’s Amerika. This is dogs and cats, living together. Talking Animals is an urgent allegory about friendship, art, and the elemental struggle to change one’s life under the low ceiling of capitalism.

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