... the strangeness is never forced, the surrealism always grounded in recognizable emotion and experience ... Russell excels at a kind of creeping, low-level horror ... Russell’s particular gift lies in taking themes that are close to universal and presenting them in stories whose strangeness comes to seem entirely natural, even necessary. Aside from their fantastical elements, these stories are united by Russell’s willingness to engage deeply with darkness and by her penchant for unexpected endings. This is no small thing ... in Russell’s short stories nothing is inevitable. She has impeccable command of her form.
The eight stories here range from good to really good, with one masterpiece, The Prospectors ... exposes the central core of the strange in the familiar landmarks of American history ... horror always cohabits with humor ... The stories in this superb collection swoop into all three of those worlds, but, speaking as a reader, I always feel like I’m transported to a literary 'green world' whenever I open a book by Karen Russell.
Alternate realms and wacky ideas can only take a writer so far; the works of literary surrealism that never leave us are those that find the perfect blend of the fantastic with the familiar. Russell’s work claims its place at the literary heights by accomplishing just that, and by remaining accountable to the consequences. This is particularly true of her new and deftly chimeric collection ... Multilayered and complex, these new stories reveal a maturity that results from persistent experience and, of course, that fiendish trickster we call time ... Devotees will have no trouble recognizing Russell’s unique thumbprint in these eight stories; the style and voice belong without question to Russell, but they are noticeably sharper, both in craft and cunning ... Russell takes fewer structural risks in these stories than she has in her previous collections — not necessarily a bad thing, but noticeable all the same — and we don’t get to see her wield that wonderful collective first-person point of view that made us fall in love ... Nevertheless, it will be hard for Russell fans to finish her newest collection without thinking it her strongest or, at the very least, her most multivalent and invigorating work to date ... For an author who has accomplished so much, how remarkable it is to say with all sincerity that Russell has, in fact, outdone herself. In true surrealist fashion, she has created a writing world for herself where ceilings no longer exist, and where traversing uncertainty is simply a matter of singing into the water in search of a wall, and changing the future accordingly.
Something is, however, not right in each of these worlds. Usually two things — one private, the other bigger, in one way or another environmental. Russell’s gift is how she braids these together, letting the private un-right-ness bob to the surface like a beacon ... With each story Russell pitches a pup tent in each new universe so rapidly you almost don’t feel its assumptions getting to their dark work ... These tales are not short, but they feel even roomier owing to the way Russell cracks open narrative space with humor ... Russell is also the greatest user of verbs in American fiction since Annie Dillard. Dogs 'dervish' around kitchens. A man is 'turtled' into his hoody in a rain storm ... The precision of Russell’s writing makes it that much easier to accept how she is tilting reality.
Orange World, is stunning, and showcases the author at her best and most bizarre. It's at once a touching love story, a deeply unsettling horror tale, and a sharp satire about men who prefer their partners silent ... The eight stories that make up Orange World, Russell's fifth book, are all perfectly rendered, and form a perfect introduction to the author's off-center, magic-inflected world ... It's impressive that Russell can bring tears to a reader's eye with a story about a fictional greyhound, but she's equally gifted at using humor to explore relationships ... Orange World is a thing of beauty, a stunning collection from one of the most brilliant literary minds of her generation.
... marvelous ... startlingly inventive stories, eight in total, which confirm Russell’s status as master of the slipstream ... Not all the stories in this collection are driven by the implications of the stories we tell ourselves, but the ones that do address this deeply human impulse to protect, deceive and make sense of ourselves through story seem particularly resonant with our current historical moment.
... nothing short of wondrous ... the stories in Orange World pulsate with a beating heart that, for all of Russell’s literary virtuosity, is never subordinated to her technical skill. Add in her fresh, vibrant prose, and the stories overflow with life, both individually and cumulatively ... At their best, Russell’s stories bring to mind Jim Shepard’s history-infused tales and the marriage of fantasy and reality in the work of George Saunders. But the talent she demonstrates once again in Orange World is decidedly her own.
... astonishing ... The narrative poise, the surface comedy, the quantum of quirk in Russell’s stories only suggest the depth of the waters below ... I sometimes wonder why Russell didn’t become a poet, since her verbal imagination at times seems to want to fly clear above the entangling branches of narrative ... Such descriptive wonders, so common that nearly every one of Russell’s long paragraphs contains a few, do not always easily recede into the surrounding story ... Russell seems the most natural storyteller alive, so completely does she give herself to premises that might undo a lesser writer. But she also seems, at times, to have chosen her stories and story forms the way a poet chooses forms, as sheaths or delivery systems for her own sparkling, idiosyncratic attentiveness. Though Karen Russell discloses nothing about herself, we seem to know her even behind the various masks; her stories feel like wild, bravura renderings of a sensibility consistently and essentially watchful, curious, considerate, wary.
What distinguishes the tales in Orange World is their refreshingly slow pace. Each of these rather long short stories takes its time, allowing those strange ideas to unfold and assume a discernible logic ... Even the strangest stories work; they aren’t weird just for the sake of being weird ... We sense an eager author who’s diligent about finding and marshalling just the right details, who’s actually interested in medicine, history, and botany. Her research authenticates her voice and the worlds she conjure ... Russell relies on the painstaking beauty of her prose to win readers’ trust ... Russell is committed to telling others’ stories in a way that makes their otherness less jarring or foreign. Her narrative sensibility is almost nurturing, and her narrators are diverse ... nchantment resides in their transient settings, quickly cultivated trust, scarcity filled with rich, perfect language. And yes: those premises. Thrilling enough to be told around campfires, Karen Russell’s stories are also like fables that teach us how to approach life’s vicissitudes: with curious compassion, even delight.
...ingenious, reality-warping, darkly funny, and exquisitely composed story collection rooted in myth and horror ... Russell writes with mischievous clarity, wit, and conviction, grounding the most bizarre situations in the ordinary ... Heir to Shirley Jackson and a compatriot of T. C. Boyle, virtuoso Russell, gifted with acute insights, compassion, and a daring, free-diving imagination, explores the bewitching and bewildering dynamic between 'the voracious appetite of nature and its yawning indifference' and humankind’s relentless profligacy and obliviousness.
Each [story] is like a haunted Charles Addams house that pops up in a sleek, modern subdivision ... Russell creates fully realized worlds. Her writing is particular and alive. Her imagination spills over the sink and hits the backsplash ... Orange World also demonstrates Russell’s limitations. Read in bulk, outside of magazines, some of her stories shrink in stature ... One reason for this is that we are only rarely invested in her characters. Her people find themselves in intense situations, but it seldom feels like anything is at stake. They live, they die; no matter, turn the page and bring on the next outré scenario, the next rabbit from the hat ... While her stories examine the human condition writ large, they sometimes lack in the sort of crucial details about the human condition writ small — those blazing, passing insights and uncomfortable truths about ourselves and our species ... undamentally tame ... The glow Russell’s stories cast is not a cheap one, like the flickering of battery operated candles on a restaurant table. I’m simply not certain their power is, except rarely, strong enough to be wicked.
[Russell's] stories spill over with ghosts and devils, lost souls and dark magic. But they’re too feral and deeply textured to file under something as simple or straightforward as fantasy ... There’s hardly a traceable through-line in Orange World, other than a constant foreboding sense of the surreal. Nearly every sentence is infused with strange magic, but still rooted in enough reality to resonate ... If there’s any flaw here, it’s that Russell’s endings can feel abrupt and sometimes emotionally remote — almost as if having created worlds so intoxicating, she doesn’t know how to leave them behind either.
...brilliantly inventive ... However, Orange World and Other Stories is so much more than fresh plots. Russell ties these seemingly disparate tales together with a pervading theme of alienation ... Underlying all of this is the exquisite beauty of Russell’s sentences, which will repeatedly surprise readers with their imagery and masterful language ... For lovers of excellent writing, this book should not be missed.
'Orange World,' the title story in Karen Russell’s terrific new short story anthology, is so good that I want to turn it into a pamphlet and give it to every new mother I know ... 'Orange World,' along with the other seven stories in this collection, is an encapsulation of Russell’s work. It shows off all her characteristic strengths — and her small weaknesses ... Russell’s stories are reliably funny, empathetic, studded with beautiful sentences, and gently, spine-tinglingly creepy ... it’s elevated by the precision of her prose, all crisp literary rhythms and haunting, eldritch imagery ... by this point, her short stories are starting to feel familiar. They’re not bad, not even close, but for a Russell fan, reading Orange World can come with a faint sense of deja vu ... I’d love to see Russell try something new, but as long as she keeps executing her old formula with this much care and tenderness every time, it’s always a pleasure to read.
While Karen Russell’s new volume, Orange World and Other Stories, out Tuesday, has no explicit through line, her creativity is so variegated and abundant that it becomes thematic in its own right ... The fantastical is commonplace here, but nowhere is it more affectingly deployed than in the standout The Gondoliers.
Russell's third collection beckons like a will-o'-the-wisp across the bog, with eight crisp stories that will leave longtime fans hungry for more ... [Russell] has exhibited a commitment to turning recognizable worlds on their heads in prose so rich that sentences almost burst at the seams. Her third collection is no exception ... a momentous feat of storytelling.
...a story collection that delights in the uncanny, parlaying the deeply fantastical to reflect the basest and most human of our desires ... Each story is impeccably constructed and stunningly imagined, though not all of them land emotionally. Regardless, this is a wonderfully off-kilter collection.