Friday, July 01, 2005


A word to the wise, for those who are not already aware, the short fiction of George Saunders will rock you like a hurricane. I've spent the last couple of weeks, when not doing all the smarty-art shit I'm required to do for the sake of a degree, reading his two collections, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline and Pastoralia. I cannot recommend them enough.

Some of the reviewers on Amazon, because they are idiots, characterize Saunders as 'dark' (I would say that they are more 'demented'). Some even go so far as to say that you should only read one story at a time, and then leave the book aside for a while. He's that disturbing, they claim. While I'm not opposed to one reading a short story collection deliberately, I'm not sure this is a very good reason -- and certainly not in the case of Saunders. What I find very curious about Saunders is the seeming ease he has in fusing 'disturbing' with 'hopeful' ... and more specifically, 'human'.

Most of his satirical stories, and boy they can often be pretty damn funny in parts, center around (mostly) men who have very little going for them, and who are living lies of various degrees and kind. Most are at some point faced with a choice -- a choice to act in defiance to their respective lies. There is, for Saunders, freedom at the heart of the blind necessities that make contemporary culture such a bitch. What some people may object to, of course, is that such freedom is not always of the 'happy' kind. Freedom is, for the most part, bittersweet to its core. There is a truth to this, and it is one that Saunders very consistently realizes in his fiction.