Karen Russell's latest collection of short stories is "Vampires in the Lemon Grove." She's a MacArthur Fellow — the grant colloquially known as a "genius grant" — and the foundation praised her "haunting yet comic tales," which "blend fantastical elements with psychological realism and classic themes of transformation and redemption."
She spoke to the Library of Congress about why she uses magical realism in her writing:
I think that the figure of the monster tends to function as a funhouse mirror for human nature, those facets of ourselves that we cannot admit to our conscious awareness — that's how I explain my own attraction and repulsion to monster-tales, anyhow. Monsters are often slaves to ungovernable appetites and desires, they are powerless over their own impulses, they are brutally violent. And also exiled from love and community, hunted and hated, etc. So to narrate a story from within a monster's skin — it's a chance to consider how the terror originates from within and spills outward. With those vampires, I really did want to try to think through our mortal commitments to one another from the perspective of an eternal being — what would "'til death do us part" look like from the everlasting vantage of a vampire?
Russell joins The Daily Circuit to discuss her latest collection of short stories.