Karen Russell's new book, Vampires in the Lemon Grove
, a collection of short stories, is a well-crafted homage to the grotesque. Russell's earlier book, the novel Swamplandia!
about a young girl searching for identity and family in an alligator theme park, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Vampires in the Lemon Grove
, comprised of eight stories, further underscores Russell's talent, and ratifies her place on The New Yorker
's "20 Under 40" list.
Though each of these stories is radically different from the other, the collection is unified through its debt to Southern Gothic literature, particularly the grotesque, a tradition used by Flannery O'Connor and Carson McCullers. Though referred to as "Southern Gothic" because it was famously and most often used by Southern writers, the concept of creating monstrous settings and/or characters to reveal...
Beyond the Book
Although 'grotesque' has become a general adjective for the strange or disturbing, and can be seen in various art forms from literature to architecture, the term also refers to a sub-genre of Southern Gothic literature. This literature utilizes themes of disturbing characters, haunting landscapes, and sinister events (all elements of Gothic literature, from which the Southern Gothic tradition derives) to explore social problems, such as poverty, alienation, and violence. The grotesque takes these elements further to highlight the monstrous, deeply flawed and decayed. The grotesque is usually divided into three categories: doubleness, hybridity, and metamorphosis. Doubleness refers to duplication and can be used to illustrate the presence of apparitions or wraiths. The scarecrow...