On Tuesday, Purdue’s Reading Series hosted the incomparable Karen Russell. I had been a fan of her first short story collection St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, and then I read Swamplandia! for my craft class. It blew my effing mind.
Russell’s sentences are so beautiful on the line level, but she also manages to craft a book that is funny and a page-turner and full of magic and emotion and darkness and creepiness and beauty. On top of all that, she has a 13-year-old female protag who’s navigating the murky waters between kid and adult. It was like someone cracked open my head and poured out all the stuff I love to read on the pages of Swamplandia! (kind of a gross image, but you get what I mean).
Despite being a Pulitzer finalist and having a million other accolades, Karen Russell was also a genuinely nice human being. I got to pick her up in Crawfordsville (you have no idea how diligently I cleaned my car for this venture…upholstery cleaner was purchased) and drive her to Purdue with two other MFAers (we worked really hard to appear like normal people and not rabid fangirls), and she was just as charming and funny in person as on the page.