Zoology, By Ben Dolnick

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The Independent Culture

After flunking his first year at university, Henry takes a break and goes to work with his father, a failed jazz musician. His mother is resentful, clinging to regular phone calls from Henry's elder brother, David, a trainee dermatologist living in New York, as evidence that the family has anything going for it at all.

Out of the blue, David asks Henry to come and stay with him and his wealthy girlfriend. Fuelled by thoughts of becoming a jazz saxophone player Henry departs with haste, abandoning his girlfriend and ignoring her advice that he really doesn't have what it takes to be a musician. He gets a job at the zoo, falls in love with both a woman and a goat (the latter platonically) and up to a point learns the error of his selfish ways.

This tightly written little effort may have its charms – the goat is very fine indeed – but its rank narcissism makes reading it feel like watching some pretty boy interminably flex his muscles.