Karen Russell – Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Vampires in the Lemon Grove - Stories - Karen RussellAnother book that I bought inspired by the NPR’s Book Concierge for 2013 is Karen Russell’s collection of short stories named Vampires in the Lemon Grove. Karen Russell is one of the young new generation of writers from the US. With her first novel Swamplandia! she was one of the three finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction (which was not awarded at all, a very rare case).

The book is a collection of dark and queer, but often funny short stories:

  • Vampires in the Lemon Grove Two vampires in a touristy lemon grove try desperately to quench their thirst for blood.
  • Reeling for the Empire Girls locked in a factory reeling silk from their bodies, slowly transforming into human silkworms
  • The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979 A boy believes that the left-overs in seagull’s nests are actually items from the future, and the whole universe is communicating with him.
  • Proving Up A young boy is sent on a trip to bring a window to neighbors, necessary to prove settlement.
  • The Barn at the End of Our Term US Presidents reborn as horses in a barn.
  • Dougbert Shackleton’s Rules for Antarctic Tailgating Rules for cheer leading in the eternal fight between krill and whales in the Antarctic.
  • The New Veterans A massage therapist manipulates the tattoo of veteran, and transfers the horrible imagery into herself.
  • The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis A group of youngsters are drawn into a strange world by a puppet that looks like an ex-school colleague.

My favorite story is probable Reeling for the Empire, set in Meiji Japan, where girls are lured by an elegant agent from their family, by nice words, by promises of life in a big city, by some payment. During the ceremony they have to drink a special tea, which starts a change in their body to change into a human silk worm. By the time they arrive in the locked up one-room factory they are more or less ready: The stomach is swollen, and they reel silk from their fingers.

The human silk is extremely beautiful and precious, and everything works out well, until one girl, who was not forced to drink the tea, but did it on free will, changes the whole world inside the factory.

A great collection of short stories!

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