I was a little rough on Swamplandia! the other day, but you shouldn’t think Karen Russell is devoid of talent as a writer. Below are some of the better lines from my reading of that book. All emphasis is mine- they’re just the phrases that slapped me upside the head:
"The buzzards from Ohio had migrated here, too. Turning circles, as docile as party ponies around a mainland carousel. Then they fell, one by one, like little black razors, into the paurotis palms."
"Carl pressed his lips to near invisibility. Possibly Carl Jenks had at one time wanted to be a kind man, a decent and charitable man; and then puberty had come along and slapped this almost translucent blond mustache across his face."
"The Chief and I cut twenty minutes from the show, but you could feel the tourists’ pity first and then their distraction, their attention wandering the skies of the open stadium like kites."
"One Monday in early May I sailed into the kitchen and snatched an envelope out of the Chief’s blunt fingers- he held onto it for an extra beat out of a wrestler’s instinct, his square nails raking scum across the envelope. He chewed his breakfast cigarette and regarded me with deadened amusement."
"Nobody had told Grandpa Sawtooth that our mother was dead. I could feel the secret rolling between the four of us like an egg in a towel."
"Vijay didn’t know how to fix the vacuum either. He knelt and touched the vacuum cleaner’s bag sorrowfully, as if it were the belly of a crippled horse…"
"A weak film of light rinsed the stairwell and I could see our shadows bending upward on the far wall like candle flames."
"The insects had been a chronic irritation on the CCC barge, but out here on the marshy open prairie they felt pestilential, their sawing sound filling the air like a cruel ventriloquy of the men’s own thirst."