Karen Russell, a native of Miami, won the 2012 National Magazine Award for fiction, and her first novel, Swamplandia! (2011), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She is a graduate of the Columbia MFA program, a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow, and a 2012 Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. She lives in Philadelphia.
Russell's (Swamplandia!) collection showcases her strengths as a wordsmith while providing the reader with dazzling, well-imagined settings. Each complex story could easily be expanded into a novel or novella, but Russell cuts right to the heart of the matter, illustrating the conflict with warm, at times whimsical prose. The titular story describes a decades-long relationship between two vampires who travel the world together searching for something to quench their "thirst." These are not your traditional Bram Stoker creatures of the night nor your modern Twilight vampires, but something of Russell's own creation. Similarly, "The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979" and Dust Bowl-era "Proving Up" are not typical young-boy-coming-of-age stories. Russell's original style can sometimes turn a bit silly, such as in the story told from the point of view of a horse that is the reincarnation of U.S. President Rutherford Hayes, but her aim is true. VERDICT This story collection will be a welcome installment for Russell's fans, and is sure to win her many new ones as well.-Kate Gray, Worcester, MA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
In this collection of stories from Russell (Swamplandia!), multiple threads are tied together by pervasive magical realism, with the author's macabre imagination conjuring malevolent seagulls, karmic scarecrows, and melancholy vampires who sate their thirst by biting into succulent Italian lemons instead of human necks. Among the standouts in the audio edition is Joy Osmanski's reading of "Reeling for the Empire," in which young Japanese factory workers take quiet revenge on their employer, who has enslaved them as human silkworms. Osmanski's soft voice and unhurried manner are perfectly suited to this story; she uses long pauses as she tells of the workers' struggle to retain their humanity. Equally charming is Robbie Daymond's narration of "The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis," about adolescent bullies who come across an oddly familiar scarecrow. Daymond gives each of the four bullies-and their gentle victim-unique voices that are easy to differentiate. A Knopf hardcover. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Astonishing. . . . Vampires in the Lemon Grove stands out as Russell's best book . . . with prose so alive it practically backflips off the page." --San Francisco Chronicle "From apparent influences as disparate as George Saunders, Saki, Stephen King, Carson McCullers and Joy Williams, [Russell] has fashioned a quirky, textured voice that is thoroughly her own: lyrical and funny, fantastical and meditative." --Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times "One of the most innovative, inspired short-story collections in the past decade. . . . There's absolutely no living author quite like Karen Russell." --Michael Schaub, NPR "Karen Russell's imagination is once again on full, Technicolor, mind-bending display. . . . Russell's stories will be seizing our imaginations--and nibbling at the edges of our nightmares--for years to come." --The Miami Herald "Hilarious, exquisite, first-rate." --Joy Williams, The New York Times Book Review "One of the great American writers of our young century." --Maureen Corrigan, NPR "Darkly inventive, demonically driven." --Elle "No one combines the fantastical with the mundane quite like Karen Russell. . . . The stories in Vampires portray ordinary life with an otherworldly twist in a fascinating and unexpected way. And yet these haunting tales are written with such clarity and recognizable perspectives that they manage the greatest feat of all: in the surreal, we see ourselves. --Jessica Gentile, Paste Magazine, #1 Best Book of the Year "Sea deep, scary smart, richly inventive." --More "Delightfully weird." --Esquire "A writer to track and to treasure." --Chicago Tribune "In another ten years Russell will be her generation's George Saunders: the writer whose books are stolen and studied, flashed like badges, and worn to death with rereading. . . . Breathtaking." --The Boston Globe "One of the most remarkable fantasists writing today." --Elizabeth Hand, The Washington Post "Witty, and wise, and brimming with vitality. . . . In Russell's stories, malice strolls with morality, horror tangos with humor, and the spirits of Franz Kafka and Flannery O'Connor meet with unexpected comity. . . . With a voice that could spring from an unleashed demon--or an angel on amphetamines--Russell fills this exuberant collection with life's radiance and shadows." --Richmond Times-Dispatch "Consistently arresting . . . startling . . . profound. . . . Even more impressive than Russell's critically acclaimed novel." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review) "Dazzlingly strange. . . . Vacillating between horror and humor, Russell's writing recalls both George Saunders and vintage Stephen King, sometimes simultaneously."--Time Out Chicago "A darkly surreal treat." --Wired.com "Eight new cages of horror and heart and winding metamorphoses that would take a normal writer a lifetime to dream into being." --Interview magazine "Bone-chilling ... fantasy and horror underlined with social commentary." --People "As Russell's imagination soars, so does our joy in reading this collection." --Oprah.com "Wildly inventive. . . . Wondrously strange and moving." --Reader's Digest "In these stories, familiar human emotions leap into relief against backdrops of almost Tim Burton-like weirdness. . . . [Russell's] stories are as robust as can be." --New York magazine "Karen Russell's stories defy definition. They are at once warm and sinister, a bubble bath with a shark fin lurking underneath the suds." --The Millions "Clever as hell." --BookRiot "Wildly imaginative. . . . Gorgeous. . . . Russell has once again mapped the dark country between our everyday and more primal selves." --Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "A master of magical realism." --New York Observer "Powerful. . . . Russell pulls the rug out on our imagination, creating perplexing, surreal scenarios that bump into the common reality that most of us take for granted." --Minneapolis Star Tribune "Wondrously strange and moving." --Reader's Digest "Nearly flawless . . . . Russell's best work manages to both create a fascinating, surreal world and coax meaning out of it." --The Onion's A.V. Club