Book Review: Vampires In The Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

Author: Karen Russell
Title: Vampires in the Lemon Grove
Narrator: Arthur Morey, Mark Bramhall, Jesse Bernstein, Michael Bybee, Kaleo Griffith, Joy Osmanski
Publication Info: Books on Tape, 2013
This collection of short stories is hard to describe. Not really science fiction, not really fanatasy, not really horror, maybe magical realism, definitely weird stories. Sometimes humorous, sometimes chilling we meet a variety of interesting characters: vampires who realize that sucking blood does nothing so they suck lemons instead, young Japanese women indentured to make silk with their own bodies, a massage therapist who discovers she can manipulate the life of a veteran through his back tattoo, and a guide writer for fans of the whale vs. krill “games” in Antarctica. The stories are all clever and well-written. And each story is matched up with a perfect narrator.

Rating: ***

Movie Review: Big Fish (2003)

Title: Big Fish
Release Date: 2003
Director: Tim Burton

The center of this story is a son trying to reconcile with his dying father. Edward is a man who charms people with his stories but Will feels that stories prevented him from really knowing his father. This being a Tim Burton film, the stories are dramatized in all their splendor with witche and werewolves, circuses and mysterious towns, a giant and conjoined twins, and lots and lots of fish metaphors. 

It has a Southern Gothic motif like Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? and Forrest Gump, but unlike those films doesn’t even acknowledge segregation which is a disturbing omission. There’s also a part where Edward pursues the woman he wants to marry in ways that are stalker creepy rather than romantic. There are some good bits too. I particularly liked a gag about a Texas bank being robbed by real estate speculators. 

On the whole the this movie feels flat. The music and the drama are telling you that there’s supposed to be a meaningful message about storytelling and life, and the cast of talented actors are trying their best, but the relationships just aren’t there.  This movie has a lot of wonder, but it doesn’t have much heart. 

Rating: **