Karen Russell's second collection of short stories, Vampires in the Lemon Grove, is getting ready to come to paperback this month and I have the privilege of helping to host her event at Town Hall Seattle while she's in town! I decided I needed to reread her stuff in anticipation because I love Karen Russell's writing so much! She does gothic whimsy so well. Honestly, if you want to read a modern fairy tale, think more Brothers Grimm and less Disney, then you need to pick up her books.
I have to admit that I liked Vampires a little bit less that I did her first collection, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. That being said, there are a few standout stories in this collection. The incredibly haunting "Proving Up" and "The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis" are the best kind of creepy. And "The New Veterans" deserves to be expanded into a novella. While all of Russell's work tends to involve animals, what fairy tale doesn't really?, this collection seems more centered on that theme than her previous one.
For the Vampires in the Lemon Grove Book Style I went for an adventurous business look, maybe a gallerista or graphic designer would rock this. (I mean, I totally could at work, too, but I can't stomach those heels any more. Sad face.) I gave "The New Veterans" a nod with those tattoo print Betsey Johnsons and the nail polish is called Henna Tattoo. The eponymous lead story gets the most attention with that killer vampire ring, the artistically imagined batwing earrings, black bat bag, and the bat print scarf. "Reeling for the Empire" gets a subtle nod with my intentional inclusion of real silk stockings. "The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979" is the reason I included that seagull charm bracelet, even if it was my least favorite story. And finally, that bunny ring is for "The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis" which legitimately gave me nightmares.
Like I said, I prefer this collection of Karen Russell's stories. St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves just seems so much more captivating and magical from start to finish to me. There's only one story in here, "from Children's Reminiscences of the Westward Migration", that I didn't particularly adore, but it does have a pretty astounding amount of creativity poured into it. (I just think I really can't enjoy anything pioneer/western themed). Like Vampires, there a lot of animals sprinkled throughout these tales. The intro story, "Ava Wrestles the Alligator" is, I assume, the beginnings of Russell's novel Swamplandia (which I still need to read someday). These stories share more characters and settings than the stories in Vampires, which may or may not be intentional.
I chose another creative professional outfit here, or something I would wear on a date night with my Mister. "Lady Yeti and the Palace of Artificial Snows" and " Accident Brief, Occurrence # 00/422" both get a reference with the Ice Queen ring. The turtle spine ring and the starry bangle are both a nod to "The Star-Gazer's Log of Summer-Time Crime". That stingray bag might be a good mending gift between the characters in "Out to Sea" and the conch earrings are obviously pulled from "The City of Shells". My final story reference comes in the form of the Z necklace, something the kids in "Z.Z.'s Sleep-Away Camp for Disordered Dreamers" would appreciate.