Reading the Q&A with Karen Russell she mentions that she doesn’t much care for plot. This point is obvious in “The Dredgeman’s Revelation” as not much happens. Also, Russell says, the story came out of researching Florida history and the dredging of swamplands. Her research is strong, but the prose seem more like a vehicle for a history lesson than a compelling story.
In terms of openings, it has a great first line, “The dredgeman had a name, Louis Thanksgiving Auschenbliss, but lately he preferred to think of himself as a profession.” What follows is Louis’ simple life dredging and his constant amazement and enjoyment of his surroundings. Adopted by a farm family in Iowa that treated him more as a pack animal than a human, Louis escapes into a new life and none of the hardships are as bad as what he previously endured.
Russell has created a vivid, concrete world with a cast of characters that have depth, but it doesn’t pass the so what test. Why should I care? Why should I read this? Whatever is said about writing, one key aspect for creating, sharing, and reading stories is entertainment. I’m sure there are those who disagree, but if a story fails to entertain (in the sense that it captures your attention) it ultimately fails. While interesting at times, as a reader, I felt neither challenged, engaged with, nor entertained.