by Karen Russell
from the June 4 & 11, 2018 issue of The New Yorker
The 2018 Fiction Issue of The New Yorker is out, featuring stories by Lu Yang (see here), Karen Russell, and David Gilbert (see here).
Russell has been a bit of a fixture in the Fiction Issue, and I’m all good with that. I loved Russell’s debut story collection, published, yikes!, clear back in 2007. Since then my regard for her work has fluctuated. She is a wonderful writer, so I always read what arrives, but my prevailing reaction has been one of disappointment. That’s not always the case, though. I adored her “The Dredgeman’s Revelation” (see the post here), which ultimately became part of her debut novel Swamplandia!, which I didn’t like (see my thoughts here). Then came her follow-up collection of stories, Vampires in the Lemon Grove, which I really disliked. I must be in the minority, there, because my posts on those stories are among the most view posts on this site, even today.
I’m excited about “Orange World,” though, because I really enjoyed grappling with the last thing I read by Russell, “The Bog Girl,” published in 2016 (see the post here). The first time I read “The Bog Girl,” I was disappointed by the ending, but after the comments I came around to it (I loved the setup from the time I sat down to read it).
I think I love Russell most when she’s at her most mythical, with a preference to settings that feel old. I’m not sure, then, if “Orange World” will be for me, but I do like her opening:
abnormal result. high risk. clinical outcome unknown.
At night, Rae pulls a pillow between her legs and lets the pain scissor at her. She feels like a gut-shot animal lying in the road. Rae was not raised with religion, so when she sees the blood in the toilet she invents her own prayers. After the results from the third set of tests come back, she starts begging anything that might be listening to save her baby.
And then, lo, something does answer.
I can help you. It spoke without speaking, glowing low on the horizon. She had made it over the ledge of 4 a.m. to 5 a.m., what she’d once believed to be a safe hour. The out-of-the-woods hour.
I am excited to see how this one goes, and to hear from you all!