STARRED REVIEW
October 2018

Tales from the Inner City

illustrated by Shaun Tan
Review by

Can wildlife in the circumscribed existence of cities still be considered wild? In Shaun Tan’s Tales from the Inner City—a collection of illustrated stories and poems that serves as a companion to 2009’s Tales from Outer Suburbia—gorgeous surrealist art and equally lovely prose portray a “concrete blight” of a city where crocodiles live on the 87th floor of a skyscraper, pigeons preside over the financial district, frogs take over a corporate boardroom and moonfish take to the skies.

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Can wildlife in the circumscribed existence of cities still be considered wild? In Shaun Tan’s Tales from the Inner City—a collection of illustrated stories and poems that serves as a companion to 2009’s Tales from Outer Suburbia—gorgeous surrealist art and equally lovely prose portray a “concrete blight” of a city where crocodiles live on the 87th floor of a skyscraper, pigeons preside over the financial district, frogs take over a corporate boardroom and moonfish take to the skies.

In these stories, humans don’t seem to see nature as anything other than menacing. They kill the ancient monster shark, the iridescent moonfish and the last rhino. And when bears hire lawyers to put humans on trial—Bear Law taking precedence over Human Law in Tan’s cosmic hierarchy—human lawyers shout, “You have nothing to show us!” In response, the Bears show the humans the beauty present in all the places they never bother to look: “On the tailfins of freshwater trout, under the bark of trees, in the creased silt of riverbeds, on the wing-scale of moths and butterflies, in the cursive coastlines of entire continents.”

Is there hope for nature? Perhaps the answer is in the story of the pigeons who take the longer view, awaiting the demise of humans and a time when a “radiant green world” will bloom again. Readers may well find this one of the most amazing books they have ever read.

 

This article was originally published in the October 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Tales from the Inner City

Tales from the Inner City

illustrated by Shaun Tan
Arthur A. Levine
ISBN 9781338298406

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