Following his superb story collections Civilwarland in Bad Decline (1996) and Pastoralia (1999), as well as last year's novella The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, Saunders reaffirms his sharp, surreal vision of contemporary, media-saturated life, but keeps most of the elements within his familiar bandwidth. In the sweetly acerbic "My Flamboyant Grandson," a family trip through Times Square is overwhelmed by pop-up advertisements. In "Jon," orphans get sold to a market research firm and become famous as "Tastemakers & Trendsetters" (complete with trading cards). "CommComm" concerns an air force PR flunky living with the restless souls of his parents while covering for a spiraling crisis at work. The more conventionally grounded stories are the most compelling: one lingers over a bad Christmas among Chicago working stiffs, another follows a pair of old Russian-Jewish women haunted by memories of persecution. Others collapse under the weight of too much wit (the title story especially), and a few are little more than exercises in patience ("93990," "My Amendment"). But Saunders's vital theme—the persistence of humanity in a vacuous, nefarious marketing culture of its own creation—comes through with subtlety and fresh turns. (May)
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Can there be too much good Saunders? Critics praise the book but then admit that reading the stories in succession almost overwhelmed them. As he did in CivilWarLand in Bad Decline and Pastoralia, Saunders takes our world to its logical extremes, sometimes to the point of oversaturation. If his work seems avant-garde, it's approachably so, probably because of his ability to "construct a story of absurdist satire, then locate within it a moment of searing humanity" (Boston Globe). There is some unevenness to his latest collection (both the title story and "Brad Carrigan, American" leave many critics grumbling, while "Bohemians" was chosen for this year's Best American Short Stories), but reviewers agree that there's no substitute for Saunders at his bestespecially in small doses.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Editorial Reviews
George Saunders is terrific. This book of short stories will get you thinking, make you laugh, creep you out, and keep you coming back for more. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Ellen
Those of us who find ourselves here all love George Saunders, don't we? I'm just here to bump up his positive numbers. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Richard B. Downing
I read this article entitled "Thirty Books You Should Read Before You're Thirty." Well, I am over thirty by some significant amount yet I had not read any of the books on... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Melanie D. Typaldos
George Saunders is an amazing short story writer. There is nothing pretentious about his work and he always reaches a level of stunning emotion and wicked humor. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Gift Card
There are a few good stories, but most of them are dumb and poorly written, which shocked me. After loving his other work, I didn't think he was capable of producing drivel. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Dodd V. Attisani
I don't see how anyone can give this less than 5. The man is a genius among us.Published 11 months ago by cth
Everyone should be required to read George Saunders. So funny and at the same time heartbreakingPublished 11 months ago by larry fitzpatrick