Pastoralia: Stories

by George Saunders
ISBN: 1573228729

Saunders tells more twisted, dark, and sickly funny stories in this collection.

Some writers go for what they hope will be shock value, or strive for some kind of so-called cred when they use violence, but Saunders is smarter than those writers are. True, some of things in his stories are gruesome (in an returned from the grave and decaying kind of way, to cite only one kind of example) but what he is going for is an entirely different kind of shock. The creeping horror in these stories comes from recognizing our world in the near-future dystopia world of a Saunders story.

The identification with the ludicrous employer demands, the obnoxious self-help terminology, the questioning of limited circumstances, the struggle to get through the day — Saunders writes about real life, only more so. Only what it would be like if the darker forces of capitalism played themselves out. Only if we really did continue to turn on each other. Only if you could read the mind of your loser next door neighbor.

If you read his previous collection (CivilWarLand in Bad Decline) and loved it, read this. If you haven’t read it, you can start here, then buy the other book. If you have kids who are still too young to appreciate these two books, get the illustrated kid’s book he wrote (The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip). Actually, get that whether you have kids or not.

Why am I pushing this stuff? Finding humor in the darkness is something we are likely to need more, not less of, in the coming years. Stock up now. Who doesn’t need their gruesomeness to have some humor, and some hope?

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