Karen Russell, “The bad graft” in The New Yorker Magazine


I took quite a liking to Karen Russell’s writing when I read Sleep Donation. And when I opened the June 9 & 16 issue of the New Yorker, they had a short story by her, goodie! Like Sleep Donation and I suspect, the rest of her writing, it features a quite inventive turn of events, some fantasy and an alternate reality that may be somewhat frightening in its implications. A young couple sets out on a road trip across the country. After a stop in a desert camp ground, in the Mojave Desert, and the discovery of Joshua trees in bloom, the young woman no longer wants to wander, she needs to put down roots, stay close to the desert. There is some implied possession by the spirit of the Joshua tree (that tree has quite a mythical aura, I mean, just the name…).

Her heels grind uselessly into the carpet. Her toes curl at the fibers. She stands in the quiet womb of the room, waiting for a signal from the root brain, the ancient network from which the invader has been exiled. She lifts her arms until they are fully extended, her fingers turned outward. Her ears prick up like sharp leaves, alert for moisture.

She is still standing like that when Andy comes home with groceries at 10 p.m., her palms facing the droning light bulb, so perfectly still that he yelps when he spots her.

Until the invader loses its grip on her….



Russell, Karen. “The bad graft”, The New Yorker, June 9 & 16, 2014, pages 92-99.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s