Saturday, October 19, 2013

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

Highly imaginative original stories

I truly admired Reeling for the Empire, a haunting and surreal story about young girls tricked into becoming silkworms. It had a well shaped plot wedded to a fruitful idea – the exploitation of people, women in particular, for profit. Once the girls become silkworms, they find a powerful physical relief in the silkmaking process, though they mourn the theft of their youth and beauty and exact a terrible revenge. This story was beautiful, lyrical.  Angry. The title story, Vampires in the Lemon Grove, was also moving and original, though a little bit precious. The rest of them, until I quit reading anyway, were duds. That is, their cold ambitious structures petered out and lacked an emotionally satisfying conclusion.

The stories didn’t resonate for me in the same way that Russell’s novel didn’t resonate for me. The imaginative machinery, however impressive and unique, did not have an opening for the emotions and so made the journey flat out dull. I bailed early because I wasn’t going to make the same mistake I made with the novel where I gutted it out to an unsatisfying conclusion.

How can JM Coetzee write a page about two cousins spending the night in the cab of an old truck and it is incredibly moving and here a hole opens in the space time continuum and you feel nothing?

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