Tales from the Inner City (2018), a sister volume to the anthology Tales from Outer Suburbia (2008) is a collection of 25 illustrated stories about relationships between humans and animals. The basic premise I set for myself was quite simple: think about an animal in a city. Why is it there? How do people react to it? What meaning does it suggest?

The first story I wrote concerned crocodiles living across the entire upper floor of a skyscraper, and this more or less triggered a flow of similar daydreams. Much of my work, from The Rabbits through to The Lost Thing and Tales from Outer Suburbia deals with the separation or tension between natural and artificial worlds, provoking a sense of longing for something lost, or something that can’t be fully remembered. Our current way of life is, historically speaking, very strange, both in a wonderful and troubling way, a kind of glitch in geological time marked by great separations and abstractions. I’ve often felt that many material and spiritual problems suffered by myself and others may have something to do with this distance from nature in a post-colonial and post-industrial world, especially within urban centres. Thinking about other animals is a useful way of appreciating this, stepping back from a rather narrow anthropocentric mindset, trapped as it is in contemporary human concerns and self-obsession.

Importantly, my animals never really speak, and their natures remain inscrutable. They are beings that move in and out of each story as if trying to tell us something about our own successes and failures as a species, the meaning of our imagination and our true place in the world, albeit unclearly. In that sense, these fictional creatures have some parallels with real ones; animals whose day-to-day presence might illustrate principles of life we are least inclined to see, either due to cultural distraction, physical distance or the barriers of language. We are just so busy being humans all the time, while other mammals, insects, fish and birds endure beside us like forgotten kin. And while we may never understand the lives of these other animals – it would be foolish to assume otherwise – by writing and painting stories about them we might at least stretch our imagination, and come to understand a little more of our human selves.

Publication date: September 26, 2018 (Australia)
Territories / languages to follow shortly thereafter.

Further comments on this book and its stories, including some early sketches


Australia: Allen & Unwin
UK: Walker Books
USA: Arthur A Levine Books
Canada: Tundra / Random House
Germany: Aladin Verlag
Spain: Barbara Fiore Editora
Italy: Tunue
Poland: Kultura
Sweden: Lilla piratförlaget
Taiwan: Grimm Press
Japan: Kawade Shobo Shinsha
Netherlands: Querido
Denmark: ABC Forlag
Norway: Cappelen Damm
...and other territories also: check online for details

And walk they did, right past armed police and animal-control officers,
past bewildered motorists and pedestrians, workers and shoppers,
right into our great halls of justice.

Where could we live if not in the bottomless den of each other's shadow?

The chatter in our heads fell silent, the endless ticker tape of voice-over narrative, always prying things apart for cause and effect, sign and symbol...
it all just stopped, and the butterflies came to us.

We would be so sad if they ever went away,
leaving us all alone with our small ideas about love.