‘The Candidate’ by Kathryn Scanlan

One of the things I like about Scanlan’s stories is the permanently shifting ontologies of the central characters, be they animal or human. This is achieved within a broadly realist form, but those fuzzy edges bring an omnipresent sense of threat and contingency to her stories. I first read ‘The Candidate’ on a plane at night, and in the gloaming between sleep and waking at nothing o’clock in the morning I convinced myself that it was actually about a dog, whereas on the second reading it was clearly about a child. But I love that the story could make me think that, and I think that quality of uncertainty of being is there in all her work, similar to the way that, say, Joy Williams can set out a familiar scenario and then flip the table over. Scanlan’s stories are so short and sharp that they sting; they leave you spinning.

First published in The Daily Telegaph, May 2020, and available to subscribers to reader here. Collected in The Dominant Animal, MCD x FSG Originals/Daunt Books, 2020