Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Dredgeman's Revelation

by Karen Russell

The New Yorker's 20 Under 40 slate of summer reading continues with this excellent short story by Karen Russell, author of a book of short stories and an upcoming novel

This story covers the months spent by Louis Thanksgiving Auschenbliss on a dredging operation in the Florida swamps in 1934.  Louis was 'born dead', and adopted into a farm family which mistreated him horribly before he fled at the age of seventeen, ending up in the Florida swamps and getting steady work at the height of the Depression.

Louis is an interesting character.  While everyone he works with hates the smell, bugs, and remoteness of the swamp, he finds endless joy in the landscape, and in the company of these rough and hard men.  Russell's prose is straight-forward and avoids overemphasizing the lifestyle; these are largely quiet people, and that comes through in the writing.

I see that Russell's other books are also set in the Florida swamps, and I'd be curious to read more of them.

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