George Saunders, whose new short story collection, Tenth of December, has already dashed the hopes of just about anyone publishing a book this year, is currently taking a victory lap through New York. You better believe we'll be at his reading tonight. Meanwhile, whether you're a first-time visitor to GeorgeSaundersLand or a seasoned explorer, here’s a handy guide to a few of the pyrotechnic author’s
greatest hits, complete with links to longer reads. His stories of
novelty-addled characters and looming brand names defy description; his prose, as you'll see below, speaks for
Whenever a potential big investor comes for the tour the first thing I do is take him out to the transplanted Erie Canal Lock. We've got a good ninety feet of actual Canal out there and a well-researched dioramic of a coolie campsite. Were our faces ever red when we found out it was actually the Irish who built the Canal. We've got no budget to correct, so every fifteen minutes or so a device in the bunkhouse gives off the approximate aroma of an Oriental meal.
—from the title story of CivilWarLand in Bad Decline
A bridge club offers me fifteen bucks to oil-wrestle Mel Turner. So I oil-wrestle Mel Turner. They offer me twenty bucks to feed them chicken wings from my hand. So I feed them chicken wings from my hand. The afternoon flies by. Then the evening. At nine the bridge club leaves and I get a sorority. They sing intelligent nasty songs and grope my Simulator and say they'll never be able to look their boyfriends' meager genitalia in the eye again.
—“Sea Oak” from Pastoralia
Whenever the Outer Hornerites looked at the hangdog Inner Hornerites crammed into the Short-Term Residency Zone, they felt a little sick, and also very patriotic. They were glad they weren’t Inner Hornerites. Inner Hornerites were pathetic and whiny and grasping, unlike them, the Outer Hornerites, who for many years had been demonstrating their tremendous generosity by allowing the Inner Hornerites to overflow into the Short-Term Residency Zone.
—The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil
If I wish to compare my love to a love I have previous knowledge of, I do not want to stand there in the wind casting about for my metaphor! If I want to say like, Carolyn, remember that RE/MAX one where as the redhead kid falls asleep holding that Teddy bear rescued from the trash, the bear comes alive and winks, and the announcer goes, Home is the place where you find yourself suddenly no longer longing for home (LI 34451) — if I want to say to Carolyn, Carolyn, LI 34451, check it out, that is how I feel about you — well, then, I want to say it!
—“Jon” from In Persuasion Nation
Yesterday a bit rough. While picking kids up at school, bumper fell off Park Avenue. Note to future generations: Park Avenue = type of car. Ours not new. Ours oldish. Bit rusty. Kids got in, Eva (middle child) asked what was meaning of “junkorama.” At that moment, bumper fell off. Mr. Renn, history teacher, quite helpful, retrieved bumper (note: write letter of commendation to principal), saying he too once had car whose bumper fell off, when poor, in college. Eva assured me it was all right bumper had fallen off. I replied of course it was all right, why wouldn’t it be all right, it was just something that had happened, I certainly hadn’t caused ... Lilly (oldest, nearly thirteen!), as always, put all in perspective, by saying, Who cares about stupid bumper, we’re going to get a new car soon anyway, when rich, right?
—“The Semplica-Girl Diaries” from Tenth of December
"Don't be afraid to be confused," Saunders counsels in his collection of essays; "Try to remain permanently confused." There's no better advice to give for reading his kaleidoscopic stories.