Characters struggle for sleep in new literary works

Both acclaimed author Karen Russell's new novella 'Sleep Donation' and debut author Kenneth Calhoun's novel 'Black Moon' take place in a future world where sleep problems abound.

By , Staff Writer

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    Sleep – or lack of it – is at the center of Karen Russell's new novella 'Sleep Donation' and Kenneth Calhoun's novel 'Black Moon.'
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It’s no secret that many in our modern age have trouble getting the sleep they need – 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep issues, according to the CDC – and now that problem is popping up as a plot point in the literary world.

“Swamplandia!” author Karen Russell will release a Kindle-only novella later this month titled “Sleep Donation” that Amazon selected as one of its 10 best works of March. In “Donation,” many Americans can no longer sleep and an organization asks those that can still do so to donate some of their sleep to someone who can’t. A recruiter for the organization, known as the Slumber Corps, soon finds herself questioning her trust in the Corps.

“It’s a hilarious concept,” Amazon editorial director Sara Nelson said of Russell’s concept of giving your sleep to others.

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Meanwhile, another slumber-focused book has appeared on the scene. Debut novelist Kenneth Calhoun released a book titled “Black Moon” earlier this week which takes place in a world where insomnia is sweeping the globe. Protagonist Matthew Biggs is one of the last people who can still succumb to slumber and must deal with a world populated by those driven insane by lack of sleep.

NPR writer Jason Heller says that “Moon” “isn’t just another spin of the post-apocalypse plot wheel.”

“Many authors have tackled the mystique of sleeplessness — but few have done so with the grotesque grace and poetic insight of "Black Moon",” he writes.

Will more stories pop up that center on the appeal and lack of sleep? Difficult to say, but Russell and Calhoun’s works will likely have you reaching for the Sleepytime tea.

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