The Staying Power of George Saunders

I don’t do this very often. 

People have such wide-ranging taste in books, I very rarely make a recommendation or tell people what I’m reading. I live in fear of your judgement.

For example:

What I’m reading: The Maze Runner 

What I think you’re thinking: Why can’t they just mosey? Also why are you reading book about teenagers dying? (Answer: take two steps into a Barnes and Noble, throw a rock, and you’ll hit four books about teenagers dying.)

My recommendation: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

What I think you’re thinking: Ugh, Hipster.

So I choose to live my life reading what I want, typically very aware when it is garbage. If it’s not garbage, I like feeling like a book is my secret and the characters are only residents in my world.

My thoughts: “You do your thing, and I will maintain my air of mystery. You can’t pin me down! I will avoid the subject of reading, and in the meantime, I also sidestep the potential judgement if you don’t approve of this surely very excellent high brow thing that I am reading right now. As a matter of fact, I am reading War and Peace. Definitely War and Peace.” I am not reading War and Peace

There is one author, however, that consistently writes in a way that amuses me, resonates with me, and moves me. Last year, I read George Saunders’ most recent collection of stories The Tenth of December and was immediately enamored. His writing is clever, while haunting. Realistic, while also surreal. He has a way of making his characters painfully real within incredible situations. The dynamics between coworkers acting full time as a cave man and woman in a diorama in a amusement park. The existential crisis of commercial characters. A man struggling to define real love when he is part of an experiment to engineer it. Realistic fantasy? Subtle dystopia?


Today I picked up one of his early novellas, The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil. And once again, Saunders has left me rereading the same paragraphs. Rereading to imagine the voices of his characters. Rereading to make sure I’m getting the words just right. It is the closest an adult can come to a Seuss-ian tale. Under the guise of seemingly silly alien-esque characters, Saunders paints beautiful and smart metaphors about politics, the media, and what it means to be kind.

I also laughed a lot.

Like I said, I don’t do this very often, but when I do, I mean it. George Saunders is one of those writers that I recommend, and if you don’t like him, I have to reassess some things our friendship. Even if we’ve never met, as this is the internet.

If you folks are out there, I’m sure you’re still good people. Ask me my feelings on War and Peace!

Interested? Here are some titles:

The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil

Pastoralia

In Persuasion Nation

The Tenth Of December

CivilWarLand in Bad Decline

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