Turns Out Brilliant Writing Runs in Karen Russell’s Family

Evidence: Her brother Kent’s amazing new collection of nonfiction.

Michael Lionstar


I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son
By Kent Russell
KNOPF

Halfway through his engrossing book of essays and reportage, I realized Kent Russell was the kid brother of Swamplandia author Karen Russell, and then it all made sense: the hilariously dysfunctional Florida family. The language you can chew on. Russell’s characters shoal along walls or “move about like a violent decision.” His own small hands are “furtive-looking” and his feet are “a hindrance, dry-land flippers.” When he’s not psychoanalyzing friends and relations (or himself), he’s off communing with various lunatics. He attends a mass gathering of Juggalos (the mostly poor, white, and highly perverse followers of the band Insane Clown Posse). He tracks down a legendary hockey enforcer—Russell is obsessed with the sport—in Nova Scotia. He powwows with guys who dose themselves with snake venom or squat near-deserted islands. All you need do is grip your armrests and live vicariously.


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