In the virtuoso opening pages of Swamplandia!, in which Ava remembers her mother's famous alligator-wrestling act, Karen Russell finds five different ways to describe the spotlight that Ava's father trains on his wife as she swims across the alligator pit. First, it is the "huge unseeing eye of the follow spot" that "twisted through the palm fronds until it found Hilola." Then, it casts "a light like a rime of ice onto the murk, and Mom swam inside this circle across the entire length of the lake." The audience would scream when an alligator swam into the spotlight alongside her, "a plump and switching tail cutting suddenly into its margarine wavelengths," and "now and then a pair of coal-red eyes snagged at the white net of the spotlight as the Chief rolled it over the Pit," but Hilola would keep swimming, "brushing at the spotlight's perimeter as if she were testing the gate of a ...
About the Author
Karen Russell's first book, a collection of short stories, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, was published in September 2006, for which she was named a National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" young writer honoree. Swamplandia expands on one of the short stories from this collection: "Ava Wrestles the Alligator" which is available in full at Scribd.
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