From the author of the New York Times best seller Swamplandia!a finalist for the Pulitzer Prizea magical 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.
Vampires in the Lemon Grove
In October, the men and women of Sorrento harvest the primofiore, or "first flowering fruit," the most succulent lemons; in March, the yellow bianchetti ripen, followed in June by the green verdelli. In every season you can find me sitting at my bench, watching them fall. Only one or two lemons tumble from the branches each hour, but I've been sitting here so long their falls seem contiguous, close as raindrops. My wife has no patience for this sort of meditation. "Jesus Christ, Clyde," she says. "You need a hobby."
Most people mistake me for a small, kindly Italian grandfather, a nonno. I have an old nonno's coloring, the dark walnut stain peculiar to southern Italians, a tan that won't fade until I die (which I never will). I wear a neat periwinkle shirt, a canvas sunhat, black suspenders that sag at my chest. My loafers are battered but always polished. The few visitors to the lemon grove who notice me smile blankly ...
There are many reasons to read Vampires in the Lemon Grove - highly imaginative characters, stunning language, penetrating insights into the human condition, and thought-provoking situations – but the primary reason to read this collection is that it is a great read.
(Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).
Full Review (864 words).
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...
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