Saturday, August 13, 2011

Following Karen Russell Beyond Swamplandia!

I recently read Karen Russell's novel SWAMPLANDIA! and I can't quite stop thinking about it. Much like HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins, it makes me want to re-read it from my writer's brain. The two books are so different, but both examples of great writing. HUNGER GAMES keeps pulling you forward with in-your-face stakes from the get-go. SWAMPLANDIA! draws you in with its rich, strange images. It keeps growing on me over time. After HUNGER GAMES, I had to read the rest of the trilogy. After SWAMPLANDIA! I wanted to get my hands on Russell's short story collection, ST. LUCY'S HOME FOR GIRLS RAISED BY WOLVES, which I've just started reading.

There's something liberating about Russell's writing. The places are so fully realized and so wildly other at the same time. It reminds me of the worlds my brain would travel to as a child, though it is not children's literature. It leaves me believing that, like the protagonist in SWAMPLANDIA!, I can leap off the high-dive into a pit of alligators and swim safely to the other side. It makes me want to take risks in my own writing, to pursue the crazy, out-there images that float through my brain without fear and see where they lead. That's a trick worth celebrating. So, thank you, Ms. Russell!


  1. Oh yes. Last year my favorite book was The Help. This year it has been, so far, Swamplandia. I immediately followed Swamplandia with Ms. Russell's book of short stories, which I can't recommend highly enough. In it you get to see the beginnings of Swamplandia and to see that the beginnings were even wilder than the finished product. St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves is the name of the book of short stories. Youngsters like Ms. Russell give me hope for the future. We are not being turned into clones! No, wildness still is possible. We CAN let our imaginations free and still get published.

  2. Sandra - I love reading your comments. The best part of the whole blogosphere is the way it expands access to the community of writers and the whole realm of writer conversation. Thank you for taking part!

  3. One of the best books I ever read. A great premise to begin with. I worried about the kids I this story. Beautifully done.
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    1. Indeed, indeed. Welcome to the conversation, Micaella!


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