Monthly Archives: November 2013

Karin Tidbeck, “Miss Nyberg and I” and “Rebecka”

Jagannath book coverIn “Miss Nyberg and I,” a gardener of interesting plants finds a little imp creature. In “Rebecka,” a survivor of a horrible assault wonders why God took so long to intervene and won’t let her die. (P.S. God is back around.)

(from Jagannath)

During winter he hibernated in the flower pot.

This collection is rocking my world. By which I mean I’m really digging it. The stories are short, weird, elegant, cockeyed versions of reality and set my curiosity motoring. I don’t know if there’s a real “Miss Nyberg,” or why the story’s called that, or whether the meaning of the last line was lost when the story was translated from Swedish (it seems… odd somehow). But I love this story. It’s like a classic fable turned modern and moral-free.

“People who hurt others are the ones with the best imagination,” Rebecka said.

“Rebecka” is darker and deeper, set in a time where God, after a long absence, has returned to prove his own existence and intervene in the affairs of people. But still, bad things happen and he still moves in mysterious ways not everybody’s happy about. This story’s too short to give anything away. I read it three times.

Karen Russell, “The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979″

Vampires-in-the-Lemon-Grove-karen-russelNal’s older brother is dating his crush, but the kid knows where the seagulls hide their secret stash.

(from Vampires in the Lemon Grove)

The gulls landed in Athertown on July 11, 1979. Clouds of them, in numbers unseen since the ornithologists began keeping records of such things. Scientists all over the country hypothesized about erratic weather patterns and redirected migratory routes. At first sullen Nal barely noticed them. Lost in his thoughts, he dribbled his basketball up the boardwalk, right past the hundreds of gulls on Strong Beach, gulls grouped so thickly that from a distance they looked like snowbanks. Their bodies capped the dunes.

I wanted this story to go on. It wasn’t a tightly spooled story like Russell so often delivers, not that she likes to wrap everything up nice and neat. But it was looser and stranger. I would have liked to spend more time in this small, cold beach town, with these rudderless kids. None of which is to say that its lovely, joyous final moments weren’t a fine place to end it. Anyway, read this story and try to tell me there aren’t times when stealing feels like exactly what the universe wants you to do.

For some reason you can read the story here.