I’ve had this book of short stories by Karen Russell for some time and read a couple of the stories when I first got it. Then for some reason I put it on a shelf and forgot it. The cover promises that it is ‘truly magical’ and that is about right.
The central characters are mostly children and adolescents and the situations they are in are really way out – have you ever been lost on a snow capped mountain while ‘singing down the snows’? or sent to a camp for disordered dreamers? not to mention ‘educated’ in a school for wolf-girls?
I love the imagination and the writer’s style makes the situations vivid and energetic:
… Petey’s upper body is festooned with more of the tiny white bulbs. They loop around his arms and neck, blinking on and off …
Legend has it – if you can use legend to describe the booze-fuelled tales that get passed laterally within a janitorial staff of two – that the Giant Conches are haunted. On stormy nights, they echo with the radular skitterclatter of their extinct inhabitants.
If novel-length this material would probably be labelled fantasy and the surrealism might get irritating (I haven’t read her full-length novel Swamplandia so may be wrong about this), but as shorts it really works and can be called mainstream.