From the author of the instant New York Times best seller Swamplandia! (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), a dazzling new collection of stories that showcases Karen Russell's gifts at their inimitable best.
In the collection's marvelous title story, two aging vampires in a sun-drenched Italian lemon grove find their hundred-year marriage tested when one of them develops a fear of flying. In "The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979", a dejected teenager discovers that the universe is communicating with him through talismanic objects left in a seagull's nest. "Proving Up" and "The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis" - stories of children left to fend for themselves in dire predicaments - find Russell veering into more sinister territory, and ultimately crossing the line into full-scale horror. In "The New Veterans", a massage therapist working with a tattooed war veteran discovers she has the power to heal by manipulating the images on his body. In all, these wondrous new pieces display a young writer of superlative originality and invention coming into the full range and scale of her powers.
©2013 Karen Russell (P)2013 Random House Audio
“An eight-tale adrenaline-delivery system packed with long-married, problem-beset monsters, abandoned children whose lives are in dire peril, teens with creepy sixth senses, and masseuses with inexplicable healing powers…Darkly inventive, demonically driven narratives set in the author’s inimitable imaginative disturbia.” (Elle)
“Consistently arresting…startling…profound…Even more impressive than Russell’s critically acclaimed novel." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)
“Russell doesn’t work small. She’s a world builder, and the stranger the better…Russell’s great gift - along with her antic imagination - is her ability to create whole landscapes and lifetimes of strangeness within the confines of a short story.” (Publishers Weekly)
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
I hadn't read anything by Karen Russell before (the mixed reviews of Swamplandia suggested an overhyped young author), but thought I'd check out this collection of short stories.
The pieces all have the kind of whimsical-but-serious premises you'll recognize if you've ever opened a copy of McSweeney’s or listened to a song by The Decemberists. A vampire in a state of ennui is hung up on behaving in stereotypical vampire ways, even though his vampire girlfriend has assured him it's not necessary to drink blood or fear the sun. Seagulls bring objects that alter the life of a teenager in 1970s Australia, and reflect his mixed admiration and jealousy towards his older brother. Girls in a 19th century Japanese mill are biochemically transformed into human silkworms, but later stage an unprecedented work stoppage. A massage therapist finds that her fingers can alter the memories -- and past -- of a young Iraq War veteran, but not without cost. President Rutherford Hayes is reincarnated as a horse, in a barn housing other former US presidents (or at least popular caricatures of them) who are now horses, and frets that his former wife may be a nearby sheep.
Most pieces evoke a mood that’s an enjoyable mix of absurd, wry, poignant, unsettling, and haunting. Russell has a gift for artful physical description and crafting voices. The skillful cast of voice actors who performed the audiobook probably deserve part of the credit for that, too.
However, there’s somewhat of a sense of a natural stylist still finding her feet in other departments. The two duds (IMO) were the krill vs. whales piece that tried for laughs, but came off more like a Dave Barry column with f-bombs, and one that had a teenage bully of a protagonist who was a little too unconvincing for me. I wouldn’t have minded had she pushed her more "unfinished" endings a little further -- I think ambiguity is a delicious ingredient, but teaspoons, Ms. Russell, not tablespoons.
Still, if you're a fan of magic realism in the same vein as Kelly Link's fiction, you'll probably enjoy this book. Russell's talent might have yet to reach its full bloom, but it's well on the way.
This is by far one of the best audio books I've listened to! The stories were all quite different, with different narrators to match. The best of them were utterly haunting. The words and voices cast a spell on me, and linger with me still.
My favorite stories really stayed with me. The stories themselves are lovely, dark, beautiful things, and the actors reading them were perfectly chosen.
My favorite stories were the silk weaver, the massage therapist, and the scarecrow ones. They seemed to get at a dark, true element of human psychology in a way that realism never could.
I highly recommend this audio book!
A lot of reviewers say that this is an uneven book-- and I agree that some stories are stronger than others. I feel like either you get what Russell is going for and like it, or it's not your thing at all. What she excels at, in my opinion, is creating a rich and realized storyworld for each piece in this collection. I found her characters interesting and generally sympathetic. What she's not so great at is nailing the ending-- but I can forgive that because her use of language is so engaging and poetic. I want to add that I HIGHLY recommend this audiobook (over reading a hard copy) because the narration is fantastic. Each story has its own narrator and I thought all of them were truly wonderful. The narration alone made this one of the best audiobooks I've listened to.
Yes if they were to quirky stories/paranormal I would. They are interesting stories. The author knows how to write.
Any of the short stories by charlaine harris and others. They are fun and give a taste of the paranormal world without going too far.
The first story was AWESOME!
I don't know I like it.
Very cool short stories that were recommend on NPR Fresh air. If your looking for "Twilight" go elsewhere. If you are looking for modern cool writing check this out!
Reminded me of George Saunders
Stories that went nowhere.
old man in lemon grove
I didn't finish the book, i felt the stories went nowhere and left me confused and unhappy.
I just love the work of Karen Russell! I relisten to the stories they are so enjoyable. I love her work so much that I am listening to this one and reading her "St Lucys Home " book as well! I absolutely love that there are these fantastic actors reading each story. Just really made this story amazing!
My favorite story of Karen's will always be the first one I ever heard and that is "Reeling for the Empire."
JUST fantastic! I love short stories and anthologies so her books are always going to be the top things I grab for!
Ouch! I wish I had listened to the other Audible.com reviews. I had read a print review (in People magazine?) that made this collection of short stories sound interesting. I was pretty shocked by the reviews of other Audible.com listeners, however, and I thought it can't be that bad. Well, it is that bad. With the exception of the title story (Vampires in the Lemon Grove), these were poorly written and uninteresting stories.
Artist living & working in the SF Bay Area
At first the book (and its preview sample) seemed quirky and interesting. The characters are mostly weak and whiny, foolish, but quirky. But much like a trip to an annoying relatives house - its quirky storytelling somehow wears thin and becomes painfully tedious. I went from plain ignoring it to wishing it would shut up, and had to shut it off.
I really had high hopes - and I do enjoy a wide variety of styles. But because the characters were just so pathetic across the board - I don't think I could sympathize with them. I shut this off with great disappointment.
Some who likes no end to a story.
The performance of the narrators was fine
The second story Reeling for the Empire was the best story in the collection.
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