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.
Funny, smart, and often makes you reflect on how you live your life. Saunders is a genius. Easily my favorite current living author.Published 1 month ago by Wazoo
Not quite as good as his most recent collection, "Tenth of December," but truly remarkable writing and storytelling nonetheless. George Saunders is the master.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
Now this book is wacky.
This was a book club pick and I'm glad for the uniqueness of my book club. Read more
George Saunders' stories have eclectic sensibilities, combining various elements of sf, satire, humor, and pathos in an accessible, but also insightful, mix. Read morePublished 3 months ago by b_mcg
This collection grabbed me from the absurd titular story about a man and woman working as professional neanderthal impersonators (some kind of roadside attraction? Read morePublished 4 months ago by Simon Kelly
A great collection of well told and polished short fiction that is as bizarre in it's delivery as it is it's subject matter. Read morePublished 6 months ago by The Green Hornet
I bought this book with some trepidation after reading Civilwarland in Bad Decline--not because I disliked that book (indeed, I gave it 5 stars and enjoyed it thoroughly), but... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Horace
I was laughing so hard that tears were streaming down my face and then I read the fourth story-the end of FIRPO in the world-and the tears came from how sad it was. genius. Read morePublished 7 months ago by larry fitzpatrick
In a recent video at newyorker.com, George Saunders describes how he often begins his stories by writing jokes about his characters. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Ethan Cooper