Like in her earlier collection of short stories St. Lucy’s Home For Girls Raised By Wolves, Russell imbues Swamplandia! with a healthy dose of magical realism, turning the decaying matter of the Florida swamps into a lush visual wonderland. In fact, it’s Russell’s writing that really elevates the book. If, as an English teacher once told me, Fitzgerald was famous for writing the perfect sentence, Russell should come in at a close second. Her descriptions are literary and visceral at once, as though she were drawing from a wonderfully rich case of synesthesia. “Convection caused your thoughts to develop an alarming blue tinge,” she writes of stage fright. “I had pictured the birds’ strident calls trembling through the air and dying, and then all of the sudden those same cries taking on a coloring—red, black, blue—until what had previously been an empty hissing splintered into a hundred separate dramas: males squabbling over carrion, a lover’s quarrel, a chick and its four siblings protesting their hunger.”
Why yes, I did just quote myself. Yeah, that’s a little weird. But I wrote a review of Swamplandia! for Literary Traveler and I would like everyone in the world to read it! If you are so inclined, you can do so here.