Release Date: November 15, 2011
eBook Price: $7.99
Winner of the 7th Starcherone Prize for Innovative Fiction
A wild and mysterious novel of multiple characters and episodes structured around the life and career of a fictional actress and animal rights activist, is the winner of the 7th Starcherone Fiction Prize. The manuscript was selected by novelist and short story writer Stacey Levine.
Animal Sanctuary is a challenging, readable, powerful, and mysterious novel. The story—not a single plot, but multiple, peripherally connected episodes and discourses - concerns an American actress, Kitty Dawson, who stars in two movies by a famous (and famously obscure) British director, Albert Wickwood, both having animal disaster themes. Kitty then goes on to make a great many other pictures with animal themes, and to found in the 1970s a sanctuary for big cats that rich people decide first to have as pets, then abandon. Later, Kitty's only son, Rory, raised in the animal sanctuary and as a young teen the lover of a renowned Austrian big cat trainer, becomes an installation and performance artist whose work incorporates animals & animal themes, as well as attempts to critique and get outside of institutions.
Other plotlines concern a would-be revolutionary who also serves as Kitty's body double in a film in Africa, the career of a cinematographer whose specialization is "shooting" animals, and reflections on understanding the ethics of human-animal relationships. The book as a whole becomes a series of meditations on making one's own meanings from within those structures others place us in - the effort of striving for freedom, the enclosures that keep us from attaining it, and yet the beauty and necessity of such efforts. Throughout, Falkner's prose is smart, versatile, and frequently beautiful.
In commending Falkner's achievement in the novel, Stacey Levine said: "Sarah Falkner creates this work with a deeply-hued palette, incorporating specific notions of film theory, film stardom, visual art, human relationships (which in this text have no magical edge and are burdened by insanely difficult moments), and the ways in which animals are held under human control.Animal Sanctuary is an intensely focused, ambitious work with a wonderfully insistent sense of obsession. The novel brings together weirdly disparate elements in the same surprising way that life does. Returning continuously and seemingly helplessly to animals as a point of reference, Animal Sanctuary suggests that obsession may be the only way of pinning down the truth. This is a rich, interesting, multidimensional book that knows fragility and maps it."