Karen Russell is best known for her recent novel “Swamplandia!” which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2012 (the prize for fiction was not awarded that year) and the first Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. This was also Ms. Russell’s first novel. With “Vampires in the Lemon Grove” she returns to her literary roots, and I think her best writing, in the art and discipline of the short story.
It is amazing that she can start with the most extraordinary, outlandish premise for a story and give it breath and life and interest that transcends the few pages devoted to it. You might think it difficult to relate to a couple of married vampires inhabiting an Italian lemon grove, thirsty, driven, suffering from ennui and alienation, and questioning their choices, but really, doesn’t that describe us all (except for the vampire and lemon grove thing), at times?
And if there were such a thing as “tailgating” at the Antarctic Food Chain Games don’t you think that Dougbert Shackleton’s rules would be useful? Otherwise, not knowing any better, might you not go down and root for those damned arrogant Whales rather than the noble and long-suffering Krill? How would you determine that the random accumulation of items found in a seagull’s nest are actually a message concerning the true nature of the universe? You should read the story.
Karen Russell explores these and many other deep and meaningful questions in this intriguing and insightful collection of stories. It is not an overstatement, by any means, to say that the writing is brilliant, inspired, and diabolical.
Russell wil join us Monday for the next installment of the Aspen Writers’ Foundation’s Winter Words program.