HBO Picks Up Swamplandia, Karen Russell's Novel Based in Everglades

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Photo by Michael Lionstar
Karen Russell
When we interviewed Karen Russell about her debut novel Swamplandia!, we characterized her fiction as swamp gothic - equal parts adventure and macabre. But when Hollywood types got a hold of this story set in South Florida, they saw comedy.

HBO has picked up Swamplandia, a half-hour comedy series based on Russell's book. It's difficult to imagine how such a story -- a young girl being abandoned by her father and left to search for a delusional sister in the swamp with only a possible pedophile as an escort -- could inspire steady laughs.

But perhaps the series will magnify the book's theme of the strangeness of being raised in Florida. We asked Russell, a Coral Gables High grad, what she meant when she told the New Yorker she had "had a pretty short commute to strangeness."

She said, "I really never thought about [growing up in Miami] consciously until I ended up in the Midwest and thought, 'I think that was weird what just happened. There was something different about the way reality is ordered there.'"

We could see HBO's Swamplandia poised with the dark humor of Adaptation, in which eccentric characters weave in and out of the alienating urban world and the hallucinatory swamp.

The network is currently searching for a writer to adapt Russell's work to the small screen. Scott Rudin, who worked on The Social Network feature film, will produce. Rudin seems to have a thing for literary fiction - he's also producing a Noah Baumbach adaption of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. Thankfully, Russell will consult on the Swamplandia series.

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