The Grotesque in Literature: Background information when reading Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Stories

by Karen Russell

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell X
Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2013, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2014, 256 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
The Grotesque in Literature

Print Review

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 representation of Eric Mutis in "The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis" is an example of doubleness. Metamorphosis describes a great transformative change, as a can be seen in Kitsune's transformation from woman to silkworm in "Reeling for Empire." Hybridity, or mixing of two disparate things (races, cultures, experiences) appears in "The New Veterans," in which Beverly wrestles with the discomfort of Derek's Iraq War flashbacks - images she can see herself - in her ordered world.

Characters are considered grotesque if they disturb but also incite empathy. Without empathy, the character is merely a villain. The reader is drawn to the disturbing character because of the potential for positive impact or change. Historically, grotesque characters are physically deformed (the hunchback in The Hunchback of Notre Dame or The Tempest's Caliban are examples), but the writers in the Southern Gothic tradition are more likely to incorporate monsters that are socially inept or criminally minded – for example, The Misfit from Flannery O'Connor's A Good Man is Hard to Find. Either outwardly or inwardly monstrous, the creation of a grotesque character or situation allows the author to contemplate issues in society in a more removed way, which allows the reader space to analyze issues that might be too troubling if they were presented in another literary tradition, such as Realism.

This article was originally published in February 2013, and has been updated for the January 2014 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Sunburn
    Sunburn
    by Laura Lippman
    Crime writer Laura Lippman is both prolific and versatile. After spending years as a reporter for ...
  • Book Jacket: The Wife Between Us
    The Wife Between Us
    by Sarah Pekkanen, Greer Hendricks
    The Wife Between Us is an intriguing collaboration between first-time novelist Greer Hendricks and ...
  • Book Jacket: The Wife Between Us
    The Wife Between Us
    by Sarah Pekkanen, Greer Hendricks
    The Wife Between Us is an intriguing collaboration between first-time novelist Greer Hendricks and ...
  • Book Jacket: Only Child
    Only Child
    by Rhiannon Navin
    Rhiannon Navin's debut novel, Only Child received an overall score of 4.8 out of 5 from BookBrowse ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

A nuanced portrait of war, and of three women haunted by the past and the secrets they hold.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Only Child
    by Rhiannon Navin

    A dazzling, tenderhearted debut about healing, family, and the exquisite wisdom of children.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The French Girl
    by Lexie Elliott

    An exhilarating debut psychological suspense novel for fans of Fiona Barton and Ruth Ware.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Beartown

Now in Paperback!

From the author of a A Man Called Ove, a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T I M A Slip B C A L

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.