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In Persuasion Nation Paperback – March 6, 2007

4.0 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

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 best—especially in small doses.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; Reprint edition (March 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159448242X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594482427
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #115,078 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
For objectivity's sake: I am a big fan of George Saunders' fiction and non-fiction alike. I see In Persuasion Nation as a step forward into new territories and places (always in Saunders' fiction, there is the place -- CivilWarLand, the land of Inner Horner, alternate universes where our advertising creations live lives close to our own), if not a giant leap ahead. Saunders' keeps it simple, but provocative: the world and all of its inhabitants are sacred, so why do we squander all of that precious sanctity brutalizing each other? This theme winds its way throughout this collection in ways both stark and hilarious. The prose is grounded in the way we say things, which casts an even stronger light on those passages that are transcendent in their simple and precise lyricism (here I am thinking especially of the ending to "CommComm", which I think is maybe Saunders' strongest story yet). If Saunders' deep concern with humanity comes across as saccharine at times, I think that's more of a comment on where we're at than where his fiction is, cause if you can't come to care for this cast of characters (which includes an orange and a polar bear with a hatchet in his head), then, well . . .
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Format: Hardcover
Warped environments, pitch-perfect prose, corporate strong-arming, roof-tarring, talking baby masks, humanity down but not out.

George Saunders is back and skewering consumerist largesse as never before.

Let's not beat about the bush: In Persuasion Nation is an uneven collection. 'Brad Corrigan, American', 'My Flamboyant Grandson', and 'My Amendment' are slight pieces: they rely on conceits that don't carry the necessary weight. But then when we get to 'CommComm', 'The Red Bow' and 'Bohemians'...and you feel the way Raymond Carver's readers must have felt the first time the first time they feasted on 'A Small Good Thing' and 'Cathedral'. 'CommComm' in particular is slowly usurping 'The 400-Pound Ceo' as my favourite Saunders story.

For all Saunders's settings and situations, I never feel that he's a bleak author. He's too outrageous, too in love with humanity to leave that bitter, dystopian aftertaste. Saunders - a former geologist and practicing Buddhist - always gives humanity its due. Even God makes a decent cameo appearance. God is as he is elsewhere in Saunders's work - immanent, transcendent, quiet, and unassuming. In this respect, Saunders resembles the Scottish past-master, Alasdair Gray.

IPN isn't the author's best collection, but it contains his best pieces so far. I eagerly await the next installment in the Saunders saga.
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Format: Paperback
George Saunders' "In persuasion nation" is a collection of stories so funny that it is impossible to feel sad after reading it. At the same time, it is a complex satire of our time, of the future we are heading to. He is a perceptive writer that combines good prose with an acid view of our time. The title story is magic, surreal and, at the same time very down to earth. It is about a group rebellion against advertisement and consumerism. All the stories handle a modern subject that has changed - not necessarily for better - our lives. Saunders' imagination is limitless and because of it his stories are at the same time funny and a warning for the state of the world.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
George Saunders is magnificent at alienated characters who scream us, though I must admit I am most moved when his characters are purely heartbreaking, which isn't so much the case here as in December or Civilwarland. Consumer Culture is clearly a target here, and Saunders hopefully will be one of our archeological remnants to let posterity know who we were.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a fantastic book. Readers of Saunders's work will recognize his style as well as some stories from The New Yorker, Harper's and elsewhere, but that familiarity should just enhance the experience. Nothing is lost in the second or third reading of these pieces except perhaps surprise. And even that quality remains, since his minimalist extravagances keep yielding new meanings even as they strip language down to its most crass and inarticulate forms. The structure of the book is intriguing: the four sections organize the stories thematically, but I could only sense the organization. In this "persuasion nation" advertising and paranoia are fused into a twisted positivism that relies on heedless change, commercial success, and cynical manipulation of political/religious values. It looks like our world of Fox, Botox, and Vioxx, but all restraints have been removed. The corporations have got it all: disorder, chaos, and fear run rampant. And it's all very funny, thanks to the branding, slapstick, dry wit, science and math, love of cliché, and masterful elision. None of this prevents deep sadness from oozing to the surface, either. The characters are flat and blasted, but their predicament is still pathetic enough and their yearning for light, hope, and meaning real enough to elicit our sympathy. While murder and cruelty reign, a spark of humanity still shines through the darkness. The cover picture, which seems to illustrate the end of "jon," is about right: a damaged boy finding a precious flower on stony ground still has the power to move us. When I finished In Persuasion Nation, I didn't feel that I'd been given a key to reality, but I looked at our bloated, terrorized world with a bit more distance and a wry smile. We need all the irony we can get.
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