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Pastoralia Paperback – June 1, 2001
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Sounds like bleak stuff, doesn't it? Yet Saunders handles his characters with grace and humor. In the title story, for example, a couple occupies a squalid corner of a human zoo, where they act out a parody of caveman times, communicating in grunts and hand motions (speaking is instantly punishable by the Orwellian management) and conducting their lives during 15-minute smoke breaks. In "Winky," a born loser (really, all of Saunders's characters are born losers) visits a self-help seminar, where he's encouraged to rid himself of all those people who are "crapping in your oatmeal." Exhilarated at the prospect of dumping his simple, crazy-haired, religion-besotted sister, he returns home to the bleak discovery that he needs her as much as she needs him. The protagonist of "Sea Oak" works as a stripper in an aviation-themed restaurant and lives next to a crack house with his unemployed sisters, their babies, and a sweet old maid of an aunt. The aunt dies, and then returns from the grave--not so sweet, now, and still decomposing--with strange powers and a sobering message:
You ever been in the grave? It sucks so bad! You regret all the things you never did. You little bitches are going to have a very bad time in the grave unless you get on the stick, believe me!The characters and situations in the rest of Pastoralia are equally wretched. But Saunders rescues them from utter despair with a loving belief in the triumph of the human spirit: yes, things can always get worse, but worse is better than the cold dirt of the grave. And in the small space between wretchedness and death there is plenty of room for laughter, and even love. --Tod Nelson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
More About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Author: Don't Mean Nothing: Short Stories of Viet Nam
(Ballantine Books, 2001)
In the short story that gives the book its title, Pastoralia is the sort of theme park that would give Disney executives a heart attack. Visitors see people as they lived in past epochs, such as the couple who play Neanderthal cave dwellers, daubing prehistoric paintings on walls, making unintelligible grunting noises and roasting goats. But, there are few visitors to the park and the "cavewoman" Janet is cracking up under the pressure of mounting debts and a drug-addicted son.
She downs a bottle of Jack Daniels bourbon and starts using the sort of expletives no Neanderthal man would know.
In the best and funniest story, Sea Oak, a down-at-heel, bickering family tries to make ends meet in a housing estate that gives new meaning to the term concrete jungle. They spend most of their time mindlessly watching television. The stations have run out of Worst Accidents or When Animals Attack videos and have to resort to The Worst That Could Happen, a half-hour of computer simulations of tragedies that have never happened but theoretically could. A child hit by a train is catapulted into a zoo, where he's eaten by wolves. A man cuts off his hand chopping wood and while staggering screaming for help is picked up by a tornado and dropped on a preschool during recess and lands on a pregnant teacher.
Sea Oak is a modern parable. The family's dead granny comes back from the grave to tell them to get their act together but, unlike the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, she just won't go away, but sits putrefying in her favourite armchair.Read more ›
I would highly recommend this book. If it gives you any indication, Saunders is on equal footing with other current gifted writers such as David Foster Wallace, Thom Jones, and T.C. Boyle.
Saunders delivers the goods in a self-effacing and homely manner. His prose is not flowery and often exposes the ugly motives behind actions that may seem noble from the vantage point of a dispassioned observer. He builds the tension through the thoughts of the characters, and his pacing is more concerned with the flowering of fleeting thoughts rather than the juggernaut of actions and events. If you have an affinity for the underdog, a passion for the barely observed, and a patience for moral ambiguity- you just may enjoy this book. I did.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Having now read Saunders' latest, Tenth of December, and then his first, CivilWarLand In Bad Decline, it was interesting to follow up with the next entry on his resume,... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Tony Covatta
I‘ve just been introduced to George Saunders, a master of short-form hyper-realist comic-pathetic fantasies. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Bart Mills
One of my favorite writers. I will read anything by George Saunders.Published 4 months ago by C. C. Covelli
In his stories, he creates whole new, though completely relatable worlds, and you find yourself (uncomfortably) relating to the characters more than you ever expected. Wonderful. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Brian Olesky
Saunders delves deftly and without compromise into the human mind. Though his characters are extreme, they smack of familiarity to those who admit to the pits of self-doubt and... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Mr. Richard K. Weems
For a novel, a review should consume some white space, a little detail. For this? I'll just participate in the general democratic process of saying I loved it, I respect it, and I... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Zooie Bad Foot
To be honest, this was rather disappointing after seeing it get such high praise. All of the characters are one-dimensional and predictable. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Matthew A.