Tuesday, February 1, 2011

'Swamp' thing

By Meredith Deliso

Karen Russell has never quite left Florida.

In her highly imaginative debut, “Swamplandia!” the Miami native-turned-New York transplant tells the story of a family of alligator wrestlers and their struggling Everglades tourist attraction, Swamplandia.

“I tried to write an urban story once, but it still had a scarecrow,” said Russell, who’ll read at BookCourt on Feb. 2. “Maybe I need a bit of time lag, like jet lag.”

For now, Russell, who joined the literati ranks of Jonathem Lethem and Nicole Krauss with an inclusion on the New Yorker magazine’s “20 Under 40” list, is wonderfully stuck in the Everglades as she follows Ava Bigtree, a 13-year-old who ventures deep into the unknown swamp to find her sister, an otherworldly type who’s fallen in love with the ghost of a young man. It’s an enchanting piece of escapism that’s as much about the young girl’s adventures as it is this strange, foreign land.

“It’s a really eerie, alien place. It’s always amazing to me,” said Russell. “It really feels like anything can be possible.”

Karen Russell at BookCourt [163 Court St. between Pacific and Dean streets in Cobble Hill, (718) 875-3677], Feb. 2 at 7 pm. For info, visit www.bookcourt.org.


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