The story is enough.

The story is enough.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"The Prospectors" by Karen Russell

Karen Russell 6590.JPG

First Line: "The entire ride would take eleven minutes."

Last Line: "Clara opened her satchel and lifted the yellow bird onto her lap, and I heard it shrieking the whole way down the mountain."

Here are my thoughts that I posted to The Mookse and the Gripes about this story that appeared in the June 7,2015 issue of The New Yorker.
"I finished The Prospectors.  And I am glad I was forewarned.  It was so promising at the beginning... beautiful prose and interesting characters.  I loved these lines "pouring bright malice into the fruit punch in the form of a mentally deranging Portuguese run... Together, the Finisterre women smoothed arguments and linens."  And the description of the sweater - "a covering so thin could erase her bruises"...  Ahhh...  the visuals were great.

And then it happened - THE TURN.  It was as if Russell started a wonderful story, paused to get herself a drink and then was distracted by something on Netflix.  It was as if finished by a completely different author.  Like reading a manuscript newly discovered by a classic author and finished by a high school student for a writing assignment.

This is my first reading of Karen Russell.  I saw an interview with her and Junot Diaz (through the New Yorker on YouTube) and I found her quiet (compared to Junot Diaz - who isn't?) and reserved.  It seemed that she likes the magical, the superstitious, the slightly left of reality.  So maybe the idea isn't what threw me - I mean, spoken aloud it is an interesting plot line.  Two young Depression-era women stumble upon a lodge filled with dead CCC workers, and instead of stealing from the living, the dead almost take their lives...  It was the presentation and the sudden shift from promising to broken promise that left me cheated.

The ending was also sudden and without a sense of closure.  I know not all stories have closure, per se, but I put it down and said, "and...?"  It's tenor did not match the beginning or the middle.  Maybe it was time for another drink and another Netflix show... who knows...

So we request more variety of TNY and less "glamorous" writers?  If so, I agree.  But I still take each story as it comes.  For me, it isn't about the writer or even the magazine.  It's about a story."

photo from


  1. Found your blog and I love your reviews. You have a unique approach to analyzing literature! I look forward to hearing more and finding some great novels.

    1. Meagan!

      Thanks for your kind words. I've been told my approach is "unique" - glad to find it to your liking! Reading a good one right now! Review will be up soon!

  2. I, too, was struck by the way the "writerly" prose (most, but not all of which worked well) in the first portion of "Prospecters" just disappeared. It was almost as if Ms Russell had started out intending to write in a certain style, but as the plot developed, she got so interested in pursuing it that she couldn't be bothered. Although after reading "Prospectors," I initially wrote the tale off as not my thing, I found it nonetheless stuck with me. Fundamentally, I think it falls into the category of magical realism. That's reinforced if one reads the New Yorker interview with Ms Russell. As for an ending without closure or resolution, that outcome seems rather common with respect to short stories published in The New Yorker. Perhaps the editors consider it a mark of good fiction.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Mr. Martin! I have to laugh, for this story has stuck with me, too! I agree that there is magical realism at work here - it was just the sudden shift that really irked me as a reader... like a bait and switch, almost.

      I am not looking for complete closure and resolution - just something that allows me to let go of the story when I am done. I can walk away from a Chekhov solutionless-piece and feel comfortable. I do not like feeling as if I've been led to Oz and then have been left forgotten...