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Vampires in the Lemon Grove
Cover of Vampires in the Lemon Grove
Vampires in the Lemon Grove
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From the author of the novel Swamplandia!—a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize—comes a magical and uniquely daring collection of stories that showcases the author's gifts at their inimitable...
From the author of the novel Swamplandia!—a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize—comes a magical and uniquely daring collection of stories that showcases the author's gifts at their inimitable...
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Description-

  • From the author of the novel Swamplandia!—a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize—comes a magical and uniquely daring collection of stories that showcases the author's gifts at their inimitable best.

    Within these pages, a community of girls held captive in a Japanese silk factory slowly transmute into human silkworms and plot revolution; a group of boys stumble upon a mutilated scarecrow that bears an uncanny resemblance to a missing classmate that they used to torment; a family's disastrous quest for land in the American West has grave consequences; and in the marvelous title story, two vampires in a sun-drenched lemon grove try to slake their thirst for blood and come to terms with their immortal relationship.
    Named a Best Book of the Year by:
    The Boston Globe
    O, The Oprah Magazine
    Huffington Post
    The A.V. Club

    A Washington Post Notable Book
    An NPR Great Read of 2013

 

Awards-

Excerpts-

  • From the book 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 into my raisin face and catch the whiff of some sort of tragedy; they whisper that I am a widower, or an old man who has survived his children. They never guess that I am a vampire.

       Santa Francesca’s Lemon Grove, where I spend my days and nights, was part of a Jesuit convent in the 1800s. Today it’s privately owned by the Alberti family, the prices are excessive, and the locals know to buy their lemons elsewhere. In summers a teenage girl named Fila mans a wooden stall at the back of the grove. She’s painfully thin, with heavy black bangs. I can tell by the careful way she saves the best lemons for me, slyly kicking them under my bench, that she knows I am a monster. Sometimes she’ll smile vacantly in my direction, but she never gives me any trouble. And because of her benevolent indifference to me, I feel a swell of love for the girl.

       Fila makes the lemonade and monitors the hot dog machine, watching the meat rotate on wire spigots. I’m fascinated by this machine. The Italian name for it translates as “carousel of beef.” Who would have guessed at such a device two hundred years ago? Back then we were all preoccupied with visions of apocalypse; Santa Francesca, the foundress of this very grove, gouged out her eyes while dictating premonitions of fire. What a shame, I often think, that she foresaw only the end times, never hot dogs.

    A sign posted just outside the grove reads:

    CIGERETTE PIE

    HEAT DOGS

    GRANITE DRINKS

    Santa Francesca’s Limonata—­

    THE MOST REFRISHING DRANK ON THE PLENET!!

       Every day, tourists from Wales and Germany and America are ferried over from cruise ships to the base of these cliffs. They ride the funicular up here to visit the grove, to eat “heat dogs” with speckly brown mustard and sip lemon ices. They snap photographs of the Alberti brothers, Benny and Luciano, teenage twins who cling to the trees’ wooden supports and make a grudging show of harvesting lemons, who spear each other with trowels and refer to the tourist women as “vaginas” in Italian slang. “Buona sera, vaginas!” they cry from the trees. I think the tourists are getting stupider. None of them speak Italian anymore, and these new women seem deaf to aggression. Often I fantasize about flashing my fangs at the brothers, just to keep them in line.

       As I said, the tourists usually ignore me; perhaps it’s the dominoes. A few years back, I bought a battered red set...

About the Author-

  • Karen Russell, a native of Miami, won the 2012 National Magazine Award for fiction, and her first novel, Swamplandia! (2011), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She is a graduate of the Columbia MFA program, a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow, and a 2012 Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. She lives in Philadelphia.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from October 29, 2012
    There are only eight stories in Russell’s new collection, but as readers of Swamplandia! know, Russell doesn’t work small. She’s a world builder, and the stranger the better. Not that she writes fantasy, exactly: the worlds she creates live within the one we know—but sometimes they operate by different rules. Take “The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979”: Nal, its main character, is your basic dejected 14-year-old boy whose brother gets the girls and whose mother has more or less given up; “Nal was a virgin. He kicked at a wet clump of sand until it exploded.” But in this beach town, the seagulls have secrets. Or consider “The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis,” a story of high school bullying that extends a familiar plot line in eerie and convincing ways. Similarly, “The New Veterans,” in which a middle-aged masseuse works on a young Iraq War vet haunted by his buddy’s death, blurs horror, the genre, with the horror of daily life. Is the masseuse losing her mind? Is the vet? What about those ignoring the war entirely? Perhaps the answers lie in the veteran’s muddy, whole-back tattoo: “Light hops the fence of its design. So many colors go waterfalling down the man’s spine that, at first glance, she can’t make any sense of the picture.” While this story runs a little long, and the otherwise excellent “Proving Up” doesn’t need its final gothic touch, Russell’s great gift—along with her antic imagination—who else would give us a barn full of ex-presidents reincarnated as horses?—is her ability to create whole landscapes and lifetimes of strangeness within the confines of a short story. Agent: The Denise Shannon Literary Agency.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 27, 2013
    In this collection of stories from Russell (Swamplandia!), multiple threads are tied together by pervasive magical realism, with the author’s macabre imagination conjuring malevolent seagulls, karmic scarecrows, and melancholy vampires who sate their thirst by biting into succulent Italian lemons instead of human necks. Among the standouts in the audio edition is Joy Osmanski’s reading of “Reeling for the Empire,” in which young Japanese factory workers take quiet revenge on their employer, who has enslaved them as human silkworms. Osmanski’s soft voice and unhurried manner are perfectly suited to this story; she uses long pauses as she tells of the workers’ struggle to retain their humanity. Equally charming is Robbie Daymond’s narration of “The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis,” about adolescent bullies who come across an oddly familiar scarecrow. Daymond gives each of the four bullies—and their gentle victim—unique voices that are easy to differentiate. A Knopf hardcover.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from November 15, 2012
    A consistently arresting, frequently stunning collection of eight stories. Though Russell enjoyed her breakthrough--both popular and critical--with her debut novel (Swamplandia!, 2011), she had earlier attracted notice with her short stories (St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, 2006). Here, she returns to that format with startling effect, reinforcing the uniqueness of her fiction, employing situations that are implausible, even outlandish, to illuminate the human condition. Or the vampire condition, as she does in the opening title story, where the ostensibly unthreatening narrator comes to term with immortality, love and loss, and his essential nature. Then there's "The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979," about a 14-year-old boy's sexual initiation during a summer in which he is so acutely self-conscious that he barely notices that his town has been invaded by sea gulls, "gulls grouped so thickly that from a distance they looked like snowbanks." Perhaps the most ingenious of this inspired lot is "The New Veterans," with a comparatively realistic setup that finds soldiers who are returning from battle given massages to reduce stress. In one particular relationship, the elaborately tattooed back of a young veteran provides a narrative all its own, one transformed by the narrative process of the massage. The interplay has profound implications for both the masseuse and her initially reluctant patient; both discover that "healing hurts sometimes." The two shortest stories are also the slightest, though both reflect the seemingly boundless imagination of the author. "The Barn at the End of Our Term" finds a seemingly random group of former presidents in denial (at both their loss of power and the fact that they have somehow become horses), and "Dougbert Shackleton's Rules for Antarctic Tailgating" presents the "Food Chain Games" as the ultimate spectator sport. With the concluding "The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis," about a group of teenage bullies and an urban scarecrow, the fiction blurs all distinction between creative whimsy and moral imperative. Even more impressive than Russell's critically acclaimed novel.

    COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    September 15, 2012

    The New Yorker's 20 Under 40. Granta's Best Young American Novelists. The National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35. Russell surely has had a stellar career, straight out of the gate. Her new collection echoes the witty lusciousness of her first novel, Pulitzer finalist Swamplandia! (also a New York Times and a No. 1 Indie Next best seller and a New York Times Book Review Top Ten); the title piece features two vampires whose 100-year-old marriage is on the skids because one has developed a fear of flying. A few stories, like those about abandoned children, lose the wit and lusciousness and go all dark.

    Copyright 2012 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from December 1, 2012
    Russell's electrically original short stories propelled her into the literary limelight, then her first novel, Swamplandia! (2011), was chosen as finalist for the Pulitzer and the first Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. In her third book, she returns to the story form with renewed daring, leading us again into uncharted terrain, though as fantastic as the predicaments she imagines are, the emotions couldn't be truer to life as we usually know it. So even though the troubles of a long-married couple are complicated by the fact that they are vampires, and she can transform herself into a bat while he can only pose as a small, kindly Italian grandfather, their catastrophic heartache is all human. The same holds true for the courage and ingenuity Kitsune summons in confronting the horror of her brutal metamorphosis and enslavement in a Japanese silk mill. Ditto for President Rutherford Hayes when he finds himself reincarnated in the body of a horse. From the grueling Food Chain Games in Antarctica to terror on the prairie in the sod-house era, Russell, in the same vein as Jim Shepard and George Saunders though unique in her outlook, continues her mind-blowing, mythic, macabre, hilarious, and tender inquiry into the profound link between humans and animals, and what separates us.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2012, American Library Association.)

  • Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times "Vampires in the Lemon Grove shows Ms. Russell more in control of her craft than ever . . . Ms. Russell deftly combines elements of the weird and supernatural with acute psychological realism; elements of the gothic with dry, contemporary humor. From apparent influences as disparate as George Saunders, Saki, Stephen King, Carson McCullers and Joy Williams, she has fashioned a quirky, textured voice that is thoroughly her own: lyrical and funny, fantastical and meditative . . . Underscores her fecund and constantly surprising storytelling gifts . . . In these tales Ms. Russell combines careful research with minutely imagined details and a wonderfully vital sleight of hand to create narratives that possess both the resonance of myth and the immediacy of something new."
  • Joy Williams, The New York Times Book Review "Hilarious, exquisite, first-rate . . . It's hard not to reflect on the origins of this wildly talented young writer's ideas . . . A grim, stupendous magic is at work in these stories . . . Her work has a velocity and trajectory that is little less than dazzling and a tough, enveloping, exhilarating voice that cannot be equaled."
  • Michael Schaub, NPR "One of the most innovative, inspired short-story collections in the past decade . . . Vampires in the Lemon Grove is flawless and magnificent, and there's absolutely no living author quite like Karen Russell."
  • Molly Antopol, San Francisco Chronicle "Astonishing . . . Vampires in the Lemon Grove stands out as Russell's best book . . . with prose so alive it practically backflips off the page . . . One of Russell's seemingly endless gifts as a writer is that her invented worlds shed new light on the one in which we live."
  • Elizabeth Hand, Washington Post "Beautiful tales . . . Vampires in the Lemon Grove should cement Russell's reputation as one of the most remarkable fantasists writing today."
  • Maureen Corrigan, NPR "Russell is so grand a writer--so otherworldly, yet emotionally devastating; so daffy and daring--that she doesn't need an imprimatur to stake her claim to literary genius . . . One of the great American writers of our young century."
  • Amy Driscoll, Miami Herald "Karen Russell's imagination is one again on full, Technicolor, mind-bending display . . . If Vampires in the Lemon Grove is an indicator of the future, Russell's stories will be seizing our imaginations--and nibbling at the edges of our nightmares--for years to come."
  • Madeleine Blais, Chicago Tribune "A force to behold . . . Russell establishes herself as a writer to track and to treasure."
  • Reader's Digest "Wildly inventive . . . wondrously strange and moving."
  • Richmond Times-Dispatch "Witty, and wise, and brimming with vitality . . . In Russell's stories, malice strolls with morality, horror tangos with humor, and the spirits of Franz Kafka and Flannery O'Connor meet with unexpected comity . . . With a voice that could spring from an unleashed demon--or an angel on amphetamines--Russell fills this exuberant collection with life's radiance and shadows, enhanced by the possibility of redemption."
  • The Millions "Karen Russell's stories defy definition. They are at once warm and sinister, a bubblebath with a shark fin lurking underneath the suds . . . fiction that expands the possible, gorgeous prose forged in the fires of dark beauty and wistful longing."
  • SouthFlorida.com "Like Russell's previous work, Vampires in the Lemon Grove presents a writer with a seemingly infinite imagination and a tremendous appreciation for the possibilities of language, particularly its ability to extract beauty from the darkest places and situations . . . Her originality is relentless."
  • Elle "An eight-tale adrenaline-delivery system packed with long-married, problem-beset monsters, abandoned children whose lives are in dire peril, teens with creepy sixth senses, and masseuses with inexplicable healing powers . . . Darkly inventive, demonically driven narratives set in the author's inimitable imaginative disturbia."

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