Karen Russell, "Z.Z.’s Sleep-Away Camp for Disordered Dreamers"

Somebody’s killing the sheep.

(from St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised By Wolves)

This year, we’ve got a New Kid, this Eastern European lycanthrope. he is redolent of tubers and Old World damp. New Kid’s face is a pituitary horror, a patchwork of runny sores and sebaceous dips. Ginger fur sprouts from weird places, his chin, his ear. You intuit some horror story — homeschooled, his mother’s in a coven, he eats rancid cabbage out of a trough, that sort of thing. His sleep cycles with the moon.

See it’s this camp for kids with sleeping disorders: sleep apneics, night eaters, narcoleptics, etc. It’s an interesting notion explored relentlessly, right to the point where you wonder if you’re supposed to think it’s over the top on purpose, a joke about a neat idea taken too far. This camp occasionally resembles a George Saunders concoction (his are often theme parks), where the bleakness and ridiculousness are deadpanned. But Russell doesn’t treat the oddity of the situation the children are in like it’s unremarkable. The coolness of the sleepy-time fun camp is instead exploited and riffed on in every paragraph. So this was a good read — and some sentences were quite artful — but maybe not as fascinating as it thought it was.

One thought on “Karen Russell, "Z.Z.’s Sleep-Away Camp for Disordered Dreamers"

  1. Anonymous

    i really like this story. i think it touches on sleep so perfectly, the way we’re all alone, and we all have our own torments. and how for a little while, he wasn’t alone. i mean, really, this story is a masterpiece.


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