Karen Russell, a Miami native who made a big splash in the literary world with her novel Swamplandia!, has been awarded a MacArthur "genius grant."
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awarded a total of $625,000 to the 24 winners, who were announced Tuesday. They can spend the money as they like. The awards, given annually since 1981, are doled out over a five-year period. This year's class brings the number of recipients to nearly 900, and the amount is $125,000 more than last year's.
Russell, who now lives in New York, has made several appearances in the bay area. Times book editor Colette Bancroft wrote about the book in 2011, calling it "a gorgeously written, loving tribute to the sheer weirdness of our state."
The novel is set in the funky, old-school tourist attraction of the title (which features a pit filled with 98 alligators), in a corporate theme park called World of Darkness and in the Everglades. It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Russell told the Washington Post that the award came at a good time: "The day after I learned about this, I had to get an emergency root canal, and I don't have dental insurance."