Short Stories Challenge – Dougbert Shackleton’s Rules For Antarctic Tailgating by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Published July 28, 2015 by bibliobeth


What’s Dougbert Shackleton’s Rules For Antarctic Tailgating all about?:

Our narrator Dougbert Shackleton provides the reader with his eleven essential rules for an Antarctic showdown between various teams of creatures in the Food Chain Games bloodbath.

What did I think?:

I’m almost finished with this particular short story collection and I’ve come to expect that I never know what to expect when I begin a new Karen Russell short story! This one was no exception. When I first started it I have to admit to feeling quite confused but that soon passed and I learned to appreciate her wry sense of humour with unusual events. Our narrator is probably the best advertising agent for what he calls the Food Chain Games and Antarctic Tailgating. He compares it to the relatively new business of “tailgating” in America which translates as a social gathering with food from parked vehicles usually at a football game. Antarctic tailgating is a little bit different however. In that your vehicle is a boat, your meals may resemble war rations, there’s a real danger of frostbite oh yes and it’s in Antarctica!

Dougbert seems to have a real passion for the “sport,” and always supports the underdog that is, Team Krill. They may have lost to their arch nemesis Team Whale in past years and don’t really have so much of a defence strategy but they have a strong attack i.e. there being a great number of them. Some people even go the whole hog and get costumed up for the match – Dougbert himself recommends the plastic Krill eyes on sticks to show his support:

“Science hasn’t proven the efficacy of tailgating in costume (yet) but we believe that the visible support we provide to Team Krill by dressing up and moving our antennae and plastic krill thoraxes in the characteristic undulant motion of a school of krill is vital to their eventual victory against Team Whale.”

The krill are encouraged by their cheering, honest!

Dougbert tells us that he has seventeen seasons of experience with Antarctic tailgating and is therefore the most reliable person to offer us, the reader, some genuine tips and tricks for joining in the fun. This varies from Rule One: Make friends with your death to the more practical Rule Five: Wear Team Krill colors – but insulate. This is very important when you’re in those freezing temperatures I’m certain. And the actual match may only last about twenty seconds and take eight months of planning for but Dougbert seems to feel a real sense of being alive and part of something much larger and brighter than his regular life, where his wife has left him for a “millionaire motel-chain-owning douchebag fan of Team Whale.” So who are we to judge?

After my initial confusion when I started this story, I really ended up thoroughly enjoying it. The style of listing the eleven rules was quirky and the idea itself so unique and fun to read about that I immersed myself in this strange little world where our food chain is broken down into teams of animals that fight against each other to survive. The humour was brilliant, just the thought of groups of men dressed up with googly Krill eyes on their heads is definitely worth a chuckle or three in my opinion. Karen Russell is so inventive and precise with detail when she creates these fantasy worlds that you could almost believe in their existence. For me, it’s Team Krill all the way!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


NEXT SHORT STORY: The Man With The Twisted Lip by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes


2 comments on “Short Stories Challenge – Dougbert Shackleton’s Rules For Antarctic Tailgating by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

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