On Strong Beach, an awkward teen with a terrible haircut has a reversal of fortune when he finds artefacts from the future lining a seagulls' nest. By the Hox River in Nebraska, a window fuels both family pride and deadly revenge. In a godforsaken barn in what they suspect is Kentucky, Presidents Eisenhower, John Adams and Rutherford B. Hayes are ...
On Strong Beach, an awkward teen with a terrible haircut has a reversal of fortune when he finds artefacts from the future lining a seagulls' nest. By the Hox River in Nebraska, a window fuels both family pride and deadly revenge. In a godforsaken barn in what they suspect is Kentucky, Presidents Eisenhower, John Adams and Rutherford B. Hayes are bemused to find themselves reincarnated as horses. And in the collection's title story, Clyde and Magreb - he a traditional capes-and-coffins vampire, she the more progressive variety - settle in an Italian lemon grove in the hope that its ripe fruit will keep their thirst for blood at bay. Karen Russell is an audacious talent with a wicked sense of humour, and this hotly anticipated new collection confirms her place as a master of the short story form, and one of the most imaginative young writers at work today.
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Publishers Weekly, 2012-10-29 There are only eight stories in Russell's new collection, but as readers of Swamplandia! know, Russell doesn't work small. She's a world builder, and the stranger the better. Not that she writes fantasy, exactly: the worlds she creates live within the one we know-but sometimes they operate by different rules. Take "The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979": Nal, its main character, is your basic dejected 14-year-old boy whose brother gets the girls and whose mother has more or less given up; "Nal was a virgin. He kicked at a wet clump of sand until it exploded." But in this beach town, the seagulls have secrets. Or consider "The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis," a story of high school bullying that extends a familiar plot line in eerie and convincing ways. Similarly, "The New Veterans," in which a middle-aged masseuse works on a young Iraq War vet haunted by his buddy's death, blurs horror, the genre, with the horror of daily life. Is the masseuse losing her mind? Is the vet? What about those ignoring the war entirely? Perhaps the answers lie in the veteran's muddy, whole-back tattoo: "Light hops the fence of its design. So many colors go waterfalling down the man's spine that, at first glance, she can't make any sense of the picture." While this story runs a little long, and the otherwise excellent "Proving Up" doesn't need its final gothic touch, Russell's great gift-along with her antic imagination-who else would give us a barn full of ex-presidents reincarnated as horses?-is her ability to create whole landscapes and lifetimes of strangeness within the confines of a short story. Agent: The Denise Shannon Literary Agency. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly, 2013-05-27 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.
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