Read CivilWarLand in Bad Decline by George Saunders Online

civilwarland-in-bad-decline

An alternate cover edition exists here.From the New York Times bestselling author of Tenth of December, a 2013 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction.A New York Times Notable Book"This book is a rare event: a brilliant new satirist bursting out of the gate in full stride, wildly funny, pure, generous—all that a great humorist should be."—Garrison Keillor"An astoundinglyAn alternate cover edition exists here.From the New York Times bestselling author of Tenth of December, a 2013 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction.A New York Times Notable Book"This book is a rare event: a brilliant new satirist bursting out of the gate in full stride, wildly funny, pure, generous—all that a great humorist should be."—Garrison Keillor"An astoundingly tuned voice—graceful, dark, authentic, and funny—telling just the kinds of stories we need to get us through these times."—Thomas Pynchon"Scary, hilarious, and unforgettable . . . George Saunders is a writer of arresting brilliance and originality."—Tobias Wolff"A cool satirist and a wicked stylist. The quirkiest and most accomplished short-story debut since Barry Hannah's Airships."—Jay McInerney, The New York Times Book Review"Ingenious . . . full of savage humor and originality [and] scorching brilliance . . . the author creates a nightmarish post-apocalyptic world that might have been envisioned by Walt Disney on acid."—The Philadelphia Inquirer"The debut of an exciting new voice in fiction. Mr. Saunders writes like the illegitimate offspring of [Nathaniel] West and Kurt Vonnegut, perhaps a distant relative of Mark Leyner and Steven Wright. He's a savage satirist with a sentimental streak who delineates, in these pages, the dark underbelly of the American dream: the losses, delusions, and terrors suffered by the lonely, the disenfranchised, the downtrodden and the plain unlucky. . . . Bizarre events pop up regularly in CivilWarLand like road signs on a highway, directing the reader toward the dark heart of Mr. Saunders's America. What powers the stories along is Mr. Saunders's wonderfully demented language, his ear for absurdity and slang, his own patented blend of psychobabble, techno-talk and existential angst. Mr. Saunders's satiric vision of America is dark and demented; it is also ferocious and very funny."—The New York Times    ...

Title : CivilWarLand in Bad Decline
Author :
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ISBN : 9781573225793
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 179 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

CivilWarLand in Bad Decline Reviews

  • s.p
    2018-10-17 08:50

    ‘What a degraded cosmos.’We live in a world where cruelty towards others is becoming more and more accepted – how easy we rationalize our self-righteous anger against someone who cut us off, brought us an undercooked meal, said something stupid, etc., and even seen as funny. Saunders, like the ghost of Christmas future, would like to show us where that is leading us. Civilwarland In Bad Decline, his first collection of stories, paints a grim portrait of a near-future filled with everything from economic collapse, murderous CEO’s, moral degradation on a mass scale, and a world dominated (or enslaved) by the rich, callous and self-absorbed. His satire, which manages to extract a comedic flair from all the foreboding gloom, cuts to the core of our morality. Saunders presents us with the inner thoughts of the poor and the meek, the dregs of a future society not that unlike our own as he cautions us against our mistreatment of others and the self-important beliefs that drive us to sidestep our morality.George Saunders thinks we are all assholes, and he is probably right. While we feel safety in our knowledge that each story is removed from our own reality, the creeping dread at seeing our own world, our actions or those of people we know, elevated to such apocalyptic proportions is frightening. In nearly every story, the economy has driven us to a state where the wealthy dominate and all others are mere chattel, disposable employees who suffer horrific treatment just to scrape by. We see people pushed through degrading drudgery just to survive, dehumanized, enslaved and laughed at, and we see those who have risen above it only looking down with mirthful scorn. Each person is just a pawn in everyone else’s game. It is this self-centered view that led the world to such a predicament.     Dad said she should try to understand that other people, even ignorant people, even poor people, loved their children every bit as much as she loved hers.    ”Tell me something I don’t know,” she said. “The point is, I don’t love their kids as much as I love mine.” Immanuel Kant’s first Categorical Imperative states that ‘ Act only on the maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law.’ Through his stories, Saunders argues that if we all look out only for ourselves, if we all ignore the needs of others, then we are doomed to this degradation of moral, ethical, and economic standards. The 400lb CEO is a ripe example of our cruelty towards others, as the reader witnesses the inner turmoil of a good man, albeit an obese man, as he clings to his morality while beleaguered by insults and jokes at his weight – his coworkers openly mock him to his face with no thought to how it might affect him. This instills a tragic belief that perfectly captures the essence of Saunders’ message:’ I have a sense that God is unfair and preferentially punishes his weak, his dumb, his fat, his lazy. I believe he takes more pleasure in his perfect creatures, and cheers them on like a brainless dad as they run roughshod over the rest of us. He gives us a desire to be liked, and personal attributes that make us utterly unlikable. Having placed his flawed and needy children in a world of exacting specifications, he deducts the difference between what we have and what we need from our hearts and our self-esteem and our mental health.’There is no end to the rationalizations made to gloss over the difficult truths of moral depravity. Much like the darkly comedic works of Flannery O'Connor, Saunders depicts obdurate, morally corrupt characters who cling to their religion. What terrible atrocities we can commit with God on our side. Money is another scapegoat, as in the title story where even murder seems less repugnant than bankruptcy and lowly employees are pressured into terrible situations in order to feed their families. There is no arguing against those in power, and exposing their depravity, or fighting against it, can only lead one to being squashed by the corporate gears, as in Downtrodden Mary. Some people truly are above the laws. It is the wicked that rule the world, and the good that are haunted by the ghosts of the slaughter. Those with a good moral compass always get crushed in his worlds, and often they are ridiculed or hated because of their honest and good beliefs. The ability to feel, to empathize, to pity, open one up to the cold, hateful aim of those whose hearts are so calloused and buried in filth and self-righteousness that they can't care for anyone aside from themselves.Saunders wants us to treat each other with respect, to keep an open mind and open heart. In his violent visions, we see the results of our acceptance of picking on the nerds, the physically less fortunate, the weak and the dumb. In the wonderful, and wonderfully terrifying novella Bounty, those with any deformity, the Flawed, are enslaved and dehumanized. While Saunders uses the parallels of pre-Civil War American slavery to flesh out the novella, as well as using racism to fuel the plot of the Ralph Ellison-esk Isabelle, the effect is more than just putting a new spin on a traditional literary examination¹. Saunders re-examines the past to portend the future, and extends the horrors encompass us all instead of stopping at boundaries of race, creed or gender. The world damns the Flawed, yet, as pointed out by an elderly Flawed ‘there’s not a person on this earth who’s not Flawed in one way or another.’ While we may excel in one area, we all have our deficiencies, even if they are not visible.In each story, the world is headed in a terrible direction that is, for the most part, seen as irreversible. Saunders is looking to us, those in the present, to course correct in order to avoid such a grim future. His futures, however, aren’t that dissimilar from our present. In nearly every story (which is a bit of a point of contention for me), the narrator works in a theme-park like resort where wealthy patrons can experience a simulated pure, natural world, often one of times past. While this is fitting with a world where everything is collapsing, polluted and destroyed, it isn’t much different from our present as we escape the world around us for virtual worlds. We live through our online selves, we escape our world to other worlds, such as seeking solace in times past, through video games and movies. These terrible bosses and evil corporate empires are all around us, and the mistreatment and fear mongering that keeps workers in line happens each and every day. Having just escaped a factory where it is clear that employees are not people – a place where nobody is concerned that the employees move about in thick clouds of aluminum dust, or use cancerous chemicals without masks or ventilation, a place where employees work 60-80hr weeks and have no say in anything, no rights, hope of raises, are dismissed at a whim, ridiculed, a place that is perfectly legal and accepted by society, yet maddening and deadly to work in, this is the sort of place that Saunders satirizes without having to jump too far (I apologize for this aside, I don’t intend it as any ‘woe-is-me’, but to share the eye-opening experience I had of how places like in The Jungle still exist today). As in Cormac McCarthy, Saunders shows how just because you can do something, doesn’t make it right. Just because you have the power over another life, you should not kill it, smite it, ridicule it, enslave it or abuse it in any way. Laws or social acceptance may be in your favor, but it still isn’t right and makes you a monster. We must be good to one another in order for the world to flourish.This collection is a joy to read. It is witty, downright hilarious at times while uncomfortable at others, and presents a really positive message despite dragging the reader through a world of muck to get there. I really hope Saunders continues writing for a long time to come and goes down as one of the great literary satirists. The writing is crisp and carries a strong forward momentum and Saunders comes equipped with enough techniques, such as his slight changes in dialogue presentation and his character’s lexicon to disguise that each character, all of them told in first person, have a very similar cadence and voice. While it has a few rough patches, the collection still manages to soar with its comedy and dark visions.4.5/5‘Seeing someone do something that’s not patently selfish and fucked-up is like a breath of fresh air, good clean fresh air, not that any one of us would know good clean fresh air is a vial of it swooped down and bit us on the ass!’¹ Slavery is not the only idea dredged up. Saunders use of economical collapse sets each story in a world where it isn’t all that surprising that people would bond together against what they fear. In High School we all had to examine how ordinary people could commit terrible atrocities, such as the Nazis and the holocaust, etc. (I apologize for the Reductio ad Hitlerum here, but it is necessary), allowing economic pressure and mob mentality to rationalize and assuage any moral qualms against even the most despicable of actions. In Bounty, it is a similar circumstance that allows people to view the Flawed as less-than-human and to not bat an eye at the Flawed’s horrific mistreatment.

  • Lyn
    2018-09-26 12:54

    Have you ever heard a politically incorrect joke and laughed, and then felt guilty, but then laughed again?Have you ever driven by a car wreck and slowed down to see the emergency response vehicles, and the vehicle made to look like a damaged accordion?Have you ever watched a reality TV show and saw folks fighting each other and tearing clothes and being separated by bouncers and realized you were hypnotized by the gross lowest common denominator humanity?Have you read Civilwarland in Bad Decline by George Saunders?Twisted. Degenerate. Profligate. Absolutely and unconditionally brilliant.I loved it and am seeking counseling.If Kurt Vonnegut had a redheaded stepchild, that illegitimate heir to the black comedic, satirical throne may be George Saunders. Civilwarland in Bad Decline, his 1996 collection of short stories and one novella is Vonnegutesque in the sense that Saunders pokes relentless fun at our society and culture, accepts Louis CK-like the abashed groans, and then plunges ahead with more of his acerbic, vitriolic and wickedly funny as hell slam dunk on our society. But that really doesn’t fit either, a slam-dunk is too pedestrian and neutral of a reference. Saunders takes our capitalistic, Judeo-Christian, western civilization morals and ethics and delivers an MMA beat down that would make Quinton "Rampage" Jackson wince.Vonnegut, Charles Bukowski, William Burroughs and Harry Crews in a literary tag team no-holds barred grudge match.His characters wheeze and moan with pathetic life and piss themselves. There is casual, negligent murder followed by halfhearted suburban, banal regret. Saunders describes flagrant, unapologetic infidelity both literally and metaphorically. His is not just the gutter, but a glittery and neon bright cesspool meandering into a dog bowl.Saunders demonstrates his skill with the unreliable narrator the same way Picasso did with the color blue. If he were a harmful drug he would not be heroin but rather a ball peen hammer and a shot of El Torro tequila. Use with moderation.Take the eponymous story for example, Civilwarland in Bad Decline. An absurd parody of a theme park suffering financial setbacks amidst roving teenage vandals. There are ghosts of Civil War era people haunting the grounds of the fake interactive museum. Then there is a mentally disturbed war veteran – in the fake theme park haunted by formerly real live civil war veterans.Several short stories and a novella – and the theme and tone of the collection coalesces into the novella “Bounty”, a caustic satire of Americana gone all wrong.And so it goes.

  • Paquita Maria Sanchez
    2018-10-05 16:13

    Man, this little guy...I can't fault it a single sentence. Every story in this tiny collection made me want to high-five the author with one hand and cradle my hanging head in the other. Maybe I was a bit hard on his later Pastoralia because I needed to warm up to Saunders, maybe my head was just in the right space this time around, or perhaps this really is the superior group of stories. Whatever magical trippydippy cosmos aligning parade of "f*ck yeah" was going on, I dug the expletive deleted outta this thing. To start the New Year off in tune with my hangover bluuuuues, I couldn't have asked for a more appropriate tone than Saunders' bomb crater soul with somehow but barely still beating heart, nihilistic we're all screwed so let's laugh...ness. Then again, I'm in one of those moods where I would kinda fancy taking a slingshot and a pocket full of acorns into a public square and firing at random. You may think he needs to lighten up.I have a sense that God is unfair and preferentially punishes his weak, his dumb, his fat, his lazy. I believe he takes more pleasure in his perfect creatures, and cheers them on like a brainless dad as they run roughshod over the rest of us. He gives us a desire to be liked, and personal attributes that make us utterly unlikable. Having placed his flawed and needy children in a world of exacting specifications, he deducts the difference between what we have and what we need from our hearts and our self-esteem and our mental health. Oh HEYALL yeah! I wanna marry those words and knock 'em up with, like, sixteen babies. Then in typical "Saunders hates Capitalism" fashion, there's this next quote concerning a Civil War reenactor who is--out of nowhere and to his dismay--tasked with the duty of firing live rounds at the pesky youth gangs that have been intruding on and defacing the park where he works."I'm an actor," Quinn says. "Quinn's got kids," I say. "He knows the value of a buck.""This is acting of the highest stripe," Mr. A says. "Act like a mercenary."Buddy, you just said a mouthful.

  • Vit Babenco
    2018-10-02 16:03

    Using lavish grotesque and generously mocking political correctness and hypocrisy George Saunders thrashes everyday life to pitiful trash, reducing the States to the ridiculous dystopia of dark ages.That night I sleep a troubled sleep beside a fetid stream. I dream of Limbo, a tiny room full of dull people eternally discussing their dental work while sipping lukewarm tea. I wake at first light and hike through miles of failing forest and around noon arrive in a village of paranoiacs standing with rifles in the doorways of flapper-era homes. It’s a nice town. No signs of plunder or panic. The McDonald’s has been occupied by the radical Church of Appropriate Humility. Everyone calls them Guilters. The ultimate Guilter ritual is when one of them goes into a frenzy and thrusts his or her hand into a deep fryer. A mangled hand is a badge of honor. All the elders have two, and need to be helped on and off with their coats.Economics, politics, ecology, morals and culture degraded dramatically but at the same time vulgarity progressed incongruously.The day it happened, an attractive all-girl glee club was lying around on the concrete in Kawabunga Kove in Day-Glo suits, looking for all the world like a bunch of blooms. The president and sergeant at arms were standing with brown ankles in the shallow, favorably comparing my Attraction to real surf. To increase my appeal I had the sea chanteys blaring. I was operating at the prescribed wave-frequency setting but in my lust for the glee club had the magnitude pegged.Bread and circuses: entertainment is the basis of civilization. Whatever happens, show must go on and the citizens must be entertained…

  • Ian
    2018-10-05 14:11

    Welcome to the OccupationThe whole way through George Saunders' first collection of short stories, there are suggestions that the world is not as it should be.Imagine a world like this, totally unlike our own:The characters and narrators are (or are surrounded by) kooks and wackos. People have names like Shirleen and Melvin. Where there were once cornfields and flood plains, there are now parking stations and theme parks. Gangs invade civil war re-enactments. All dreams are defiled. All entertainment is simulated. Muzak reigns. All other music is lip-synched. All consumer items are fake or synthetic. All advertising is misleading. All flavouring is artificial. Outside homes are suspended signs saying, "Homogeneity, Sweet Homogeneity." A Randian Bountytown welcomes you with the greeting, "Where merit is king - and so are you!" Success in the community means you've been inducted into Rotary. "God is unfair and preferentially punishes his weak, his dumb, his fat, his lazy." Designer verisimilitude is de rigueur. Memories are shmemories. Errant fathers are passive flakes, milquetoasts and yes men who leave their families behind and marry floozies. Even Dear John letters are forged. People are either Normal or Flawed, special or mutant, possessed or dispossessed. There is no longer any innocence, only guilt. Sincerity is a thing of the past. Authenticity has disappeared into thin air and survives only as a ghost or a rumour. My Torn and Black Heart RebelsSaunders' narrators believe they have to do something about it; the world needs to be rectified:"Having lost what was to be lost, my torn and black heart rebels...enough already, enough, this is as low as I go."Understandably, they have to start at the bottom:"Learn to enjoy what little you have. Revel in the fact that your dignity hasn't yet been stripped away."For all the satirical intent and comic effect, these stories of rebellion have a heart of gold. They live and breathe pure empathy:"Everyone you've ever loved you've treated like gold."The door of happiness swings open for the selfless:"I look after her and she squeals with delight when I come home, and the sum total of sadness in the world is less than it would have been."This is the real thing.George Saunders and Mark TwainSOUNDTRACK:(view spoiler)[The Chills - "The Male Monster from the Id"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJwW7...R.E.M. - "Welcome to the Occupation"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdUa7..."Sugar cane and coffee cupCopper, steel and cattleAn annotated historyThe forest for the fireWhere we open up the floodgatesFreedom reigns supremeFire on the hemisphere below"Geneviève Toupin - "Heart of Gold" [Neil Young]https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=22&am...Russell Morris - "The Real Thing"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBVJF...The Chills - "Part Past Part Fiction"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0uch...Middle Brother - "Million Dollar Bill"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Lu7M...Middle Brother - "Million Dollar Bill" [KXT 91.7 and Art&Seek Present: On the Road]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HE04t...http://soundcheck.wnyc.org/story/2626...Mazzy Star - "Fade Into You" [Live on Late Night with Conan O'Brien]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xfh7...Rainy Day - "I'll Keep It with Mine" [Bob Dylan]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5Zeh...Susanna Hoffs and Matthew Sweet - "A Different Drum"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRO5Z...Wilco - "Taste the Ceiling" [Live at Pitchfork Music Festival, Chicago on July 17, 2015]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=au6Of... (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

  • Paul Bryant
    2018-10-14 11:54

    I already knew & liked the title track so I skipped to the big novella "Bounty" and thought hello hello this is like a Motown follow-up where say "Reach Out I’ll be There" was followed up by "Standing in the Shadows of Love" which is like the same song tweaked a bit (but still great) or "I Can’t Help Myself" followed up by "It’s the Same Old Song" which really is, how daringly blatant they were. I thought this was a short story collection but it’s more like a rock opera, where the stories inhabit the same world you know like Tommy so I shoulda read the blurb :Set in a dystopian near-future in which America has become little more than a theme park in terminal disrepairWell, sugar pie honey George, it’s the same old joke. Alright, because George is quite brilliant, it’s a firework display of many similar jokes. But anyways, not a patch on Tenth of December, George's latest collection, which got the P Bryant Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, presented in a short but tasteful ceremony in Pirates Park, Waldeck Road, Sherwood in May 2013. Mr Saunders sent a hologram of himself to accept the award and it was just so moving I had to retire behind a large child to throw up.Best story (worth getting this 2nd hand for): "The 400-Pound CEO"

  • Jason
    2018-10-02 16:53

    Me at 18: I read Vonnegut; I read Tom Robbins; I read Mark Leyner; I read Douglas Adams. I had just left the nest in a small Oklahoma town. I knew hardship. I knew the void of culture that threatens to suck you in like a black hole. I knew the vapid anguish that takes center stage in Saunders' stories. Humor was therapy then, the absurd a close friend. We scoffed at the religious majority and their follies, poked fun at the consumerist drone of daily existence. Then came anger and resentment. But now, now -- a quiet concern and disappointment that the world is truly this disturbing, that it wasn't just a cruel joke, and that lessons are painfully slow to be learned by our obstinate population.And then there is George Saunders, always good for a laugh. And such high ratings! Such acclaim -- and I see his consistent voice of contempt and clever constructions of a world not unlike ours but just a bit more focused on the details of its unpleasant and ludicrous sides. George Saunders the new voice of satire, a genre that has always served a function since the classical Greeks, and later Swift. The only problem, for me, is that I suppose I don't like satire anymore, not in large doses, anyway. I can only stomach so much irony, only handle so many exaggerations into hilarity, that the hilarity becomes irritating after a while. Am I too serious? Probably. Do I want a didactic serious approach to critiquing our society? Well, no. I don't always need to be told through fiction that the world is horrible -- I know that. I want human stories, human realism. I suppose the problem isn't Saunders' writing, it's that I've outgrown farce. Vonnegut's absurd world just doesn't do it for me anymore. ADDENDUM: I LIKE SATIRE (AND SAUNDERS) MORE NOW! (NOVEMBER, 2015)

  • Hadrian
    2018-10-18 16:55

    These are the funniest future hellscapes I've ever read. I likely scared the neighbors with my crazed laughter about the brothel in the former Safeway and the pickled fetus exhibition. And the ghost swearing in Latin. And the slaveowner saying he is a kind and civilized man. But I digress.These stories, when taken together, revolve around the same hyperkinetic image of a future America, dreaming of eternal happiness while sloughing in mud, rich, violent and yet so fawningly humble, religious and whorish, fake and imitation, damning the pathetic and praising the rich.Yet even where Saunders writes about these most pathetic and wormlike of souls, torturing them in the most hilarious outlandish ways, he shifts the tone and leaves us with the most irrational feeling of sensitivity or hope.With the release of Saunder's newest collection of short stories, he has been readily proclaimed as the next David Foster Wallace. I must disagree. D.F.W. laid his own path, and Saunders took another. You do not need to take one over the other, instead go for both.

  • A.J. Howard
    2018-10-07 10:59

    The past couple of months, two activities have dominated my leisure time: reading and watching NBA hoops. After reading CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, I was reminded of a hoops argument that I think should carry over to modern literature as well. The argument has to deal with the unceasing quest for the so-called next Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan was the transcendent athlete, if not public figure, of my childhood. There are a generation of kids who still drink Gatorade, buy Nikes, and wear Hanes solely because at some point in their childhood they wanted to be like Mike. Whenever I play a pickup game, or even just shoot around I find my tongue subconsciously hanging out of my mouth when I drive to the basket. What separates Jordan from similar figures is he actually justified this adulation. Watching Jordan was watching a real life folk hero. I remember my Dad, who isn't an NBA fan, during the MLB strike of 1994 ranting about how all professional athletes are overpaid, then pausing and adding "with the exception of Michael Jordan. This is a guy who averaged a couple grand a minute during the late '90s. The Flu Game, The Shrug Game, The Blindfolded Dunk, The final shot of the 1998 Finals. No other athlete since Babe Ruth has been able to summon similar myth-making moments. Yet as soon as he retired (for the second time) the media and basketball fans have become obsessed with finding the "Next Jordan." Around a dozen guys have been nominated as candidates, and while these guys are all extremely talented, it's doing them a disservice to compare them to Jordan. Jordan is Gretzky, Young Sandy Koufax, Mohammed Ali before the draft, and The Beatles combined, a truly once in a lifetime talent. I've started to notice a similar thing going on in literature concerning David Foster Wallace. More and more it seems the DFW comparisons are used talking about contemporary authors. For Christmas, I received two books explicitly name checked Wallace on the back cover. This really doesn't bother me, and I don't think it causes the reader or the publishing industry any harm. When I think about it, there's nothing like a good DFW comparison to get me interested in a newly published book. But at the same time, I worry a little bit about it. The problem with the next Jordan controversy is that while Vince Carter has (or more aptly once had) the capacity for in-air improvisation that Jordan had, Dwyane Wade has the ability to put a team on his shoulders and almost single-handedly win playoff series, and Kobe has the clutch instincts and competitive intensity Jordan had, none of these guys are on MJ's level. While these guys, and others I haven't mentioned are very good to extraordinarily good at individual faucets of the game of basketball, Jordan was the best at everything you can ask a shooting guard to be good at.I wouldn't go so far as to completely equate the respective greatness of MJ and DFW, but there is an analogy here. Because, let's face it, anybody who reads an author expecting a David Foster Wallace doppelgänger is probably going to be disappointed as those who expected Harold Miner to be the next Michael Jordan.Now that that's said, while this argument came to me while I was reading CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, I'm not sure this review is the best place to expound upon it. For starters, George Saunders writing style and story telling are both fundamentally different from DFW's. If you were to make a Venn Diagram of George Saunders and DFW, the overlapping segments of the circles would be a mere sliver, at least based on this book. In fact, I wouldn't be shocked if Saunders never read any Wallace before he wrote any of these stories. There are certain traits that Saunders and Wallace share. Both are able to write about a world that is fundamentally different from ours in very profound ways, but, at the same, make the reader feel some sense of almost eerie familiarity. Be it descriptions of wheelchair bound Quebecois assassins who were disabled in a bizarre rail-jumping ritual, or an account of an employee at a Civil War Era theme park seeking advice from the ghosts of an actual Civil War era family, both writers have an uncanny ability to treat the other-worldly in a causal manner. They both have incredible imaginations, but are able to resist what must be an overwhelming urge to let the "otherness" of their narratives overly dominate the storytelling. I feel like I'm doing people a disservice when I tell them what the plot of Infinite Jest is about. While the world Wallace constructs is unbelievably intriguing, that's not what the book is "about." If you go into the book expecting to learn about The Entertainment and find out what's wrong with Hal, you're going to be somewhat disappointed. I feel similarly about the stories here. While the settings might suggest genre fiction, Saunders' writing reminded me more of Raymond Carver than Philip K. Dick or DFW. My one quibble may be is that while Saunders is definitely a unique storyteller, and I enjoyed all of the stories, there is nothing that really resonated with me or kept me up thinking at night. Beyond the polish of the background, I'm not sure exactly how much is new there. I haven't come close to reading the complete DFW bibliography (or Saunders'), but it still pisses me off to no end that one day that wells going to run prematurely dry. Because, just as there was nothing like watching Jordan in his prime, there is nothing out there quite like reading David Foster Wallace. What makes experiencing greatness so extraordinary is the uniqueness inherent in it's nature. Like I said, I'm not sure how far anybody has ever gone with the Wallace comparisons to Saunders, so I'm not sure if any of this applies. And there's nothing wrong with comparing recent experiences with fondly recalled past experiences. But I worry that holding something to the level of past greatness, be it MJ, DFW, The Beatles, Brando, Scorsese, etc., does a diservices to both the new experience by holding it up to a standard that is impossible to reach without some glimmer of nostalgia, and the old experience by causing us to forget how unique the first was.

  • Darwin8u
    2018-09-28 14:51

    Poor George Saunders must have had a real real bad theme park experience in his youth. This collection of stories makes the dystopia of Zombieland seem sedate. I love Saunders' take on American consumption and the way he is able to shove values and virtues of 20th century America into a funky future that makes all our virtues absurd and makes this anti-utopia seem closer than you might have previously imagined.

  • Banushka
    2018-09-19 09:48

    saunders kelimenin tam anlamıyla insanın tüylerini ürperten öyküler yazmış. tüyler ürperiyor çünkü yazılanlar hem bize uzak gibi gözüküyor, distopya gibi, hem de aslında ne kadar gerçek olduğunu içten içe biliyoruz.atlatılan savaşlar, yok olan doğa, hayvanlar, insanları köle gibi çalıştıran vahşinin de vahşisi bir kapitalizm, bugün eğlenerek gidilen temaparklarla yaratılan fazlasıyla tedirgin edici dünyalar. fakirin, çirkinin, farklının, ezilmişin kıçına indirilen tekme üstüne tekmeler... tüm bu dehşetin yanında acayip zekice bir mizah...bu, saunders okumaya ilk adımdı, devam edecek.bu arada kitabın sonundaki yazılış hikayesi de ayrı bir hikaye gibi okunabilir.

  • Ken
    2018-10-12 13:58

    I can’t help but feel like a jackass for coming to the game so late. It has been over ten years since Civilwarland in Bad Decline was first published and introduced George Saunders to the literary world. As a guy who is constantly pounding the table about the value of short stories, I look a bit o’ the fool for having not read and known the value of Saunders’ debut collection. What a way to kick in the doors and make an entrance into the literary world.Saunders is amazingly comfortable in his own skin -- he’s running with a great stride in these stories, carrying the reader along with him effortlessly. Nothing ever seems forced. Both Flannery O’Connor and Mavis Gallant had that same ability, and in many ways Saunders is as adept at writing stories that seemed to have been set down on earth and exist (you never feel as if you’re reading, you are a witness).It is an American vision, albeit a twisted, dark, and tragicomic one. The world of Saunders’ stories is our America, but turned inside out, revealing our ugly insides. And that alone makes them a pleasure to read. On the surface most of the tales in Civilwarland in Bad Decline focus around theme parks or attractions that at first seem absurd, but as you read into the story, don’t seem that implausible. The Civilwarland theme park of the title story is savaged by teenage gangs, has authentic civil-war era tormented souls, and a reconstructed Eerie Canal complete with a historically inaccurate smell of Chinese food. There is the water park sporting a “Leaping Trout Subroutine” for authenticity and a very deadly wave pool. Oh and the not-so-perfect holographic projection franchise and the not-so-on-the-level raccoon disposal business and a science museum that includes pickled babies and cows with plexiglass stomachs. I almost forgot to mention the medieval times theme park staffed by mutants. But nothing works, or at least not the way it should. The bird count in Civilwarland is off so they have to kill several hundred orioles. The plexiglass cows keep dying. The wave pool sucks small children into the turbines. The holograph devices can actually siphon a customer’s memories. It is a strange America that Saunders presents to us, but not so far-fetched. It is just our foibles and desires and sins amplified to comic effect. This is usually why most people cannot go three lines without mentioning Vonnegut when talking about Saunders’ stories.But the superstructures that hold up all these stories are simple morality tales. Most, with the exception of “Downtrodden Mary’s Failed Campaign of Terror,” center around emasculated or down-trodden men having to face up to the consequences of their actions. It gives the stories their sadness and their hook. One moment you’re laughing at Saunders wit only to be sucker punched by the reality of a character’s situation. The narrator of the title story, discovering that his de facto security guard has taken his role a little too seriously upon capturing a teenage candy thief, is forced to bury a severed hand behind the theme park. As he digs, he’s confronted by the ghosts of the park -- a civil-war era family who really haven't gotten over the whole death thing -- launching the otherworldly collective into a Macbeth like hand wringing scene. It breaks your heart.And that is what makes these stories works so perfectly. They break you down, even as they have you laughing out loud. The best story in the collection, “Isabelle,” is almost an odd-duck as it is a straight tale of small town life. But it destroys you. It lays you out flat on a slab. The prose is simple, precise, razor-sharp. In all good short story collections, there is always one piece that justifies the cost of the others. “Isabelle” is worth the price of the book alone.The collection is not perfect. The final novella, “Bounty,” while entertaining in parts feels like an unneeded, over-extended exclamation point to the stories in front of it. If I had to guess, the publisher included it so as not to make the collection seem too short. And in some ways, the recurring themes can start to feel heavy-handed as you get four or five stories into the book. But Saunders always saves the day. His writing is so perfectly witty, sharp, and poignant, that you’re willing to drop the petty criticisms and follow the tale. That is a sign of great writing.

  • Terri Jacobson
    2018-10-18 12:59

    This collection of 6 short stories and a novella was written in 1996, and it holds up brilliantly today. George Saunders is a master storyteller, and his writing is sublime. I love the entire collection.All the stories take place in some kind of dystopian, and very believable, future. In the title story, CivilWarLand is a theme park run amok. In Offloading Mrs. Schwarts, people begin offloading their memories to serve as educational modules for the young. The 400-Pound CEO is Jeffrey, founder of a humane raccoon removal company--but surprise, there is no mercy to be found. I love the novella, Bounty. Here we find "Bountyland", a theme park in which customers go back to the old South. The 13th amendment has been repealed. Genetic mutations are rife in the population, and those affected must wear permanent bracelets labeled "Flawed." They cannot mate with "Normals." Slavery is again the law of the land, and Flawed people cannot go west of the Mississippi without risking their lives.The writing in this collection is creative, elegant, and thought-provoking. Be prepared for a certain amount of violence. There is humor and satire. There are metaphors and looks at a frightening future. You'll find organizations like the Center for Wayward Nuns, and GuiltMasters, a brother and sister psychology team that will come to you and relieve your guilt. You'll find a see-through cow and a wave pool in which a boy gets crushed. Through all this, Saunders finds the humanity of his characters, the universal longing for connection. An outstanding collection in every sense.

  • Mattia Ravasi
    2018-10-16 16:08

    Video-review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aiH7...Featured in my Top 5 George Saunders Books: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Bc7g...George Saunders' debut collection goes a bit over the top with its emotional charge at times, but remains an immensely rewarding, if upsetting, experience. Its stories are balanced and rewarding (although kinda same-y occasionally), the Bounty novella is less elegant but quite unforgettable, and overall he can do things in the span of a page that will make your head spin.

  • Blair
    2018-10-12 15:12

    Set in a near-future America which appears to have become one big dilapidated theme park, the bizarre stories (and novella) of CivilWarLand in Bad Decline are by turns funny, disturbing and moving. Saunders' characters are invariably weird, eccentric, even occasionally horrifying, yet they end up feeling more human than the majority of fictional characters. It's also satisfying to find I can now detect Saunders' influence in the work of so many other writers I admire - to name a few: Lindsay Hunter's short stories, Kaaron Warren's novel Slights, and recent favourite You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman. My favourites from this collection were the title story and 'The 400-Pound CEO', and I also found the insightful author's note - which is really another story, albeit an autobiographical one about the creation of this book - to be just as enjoyable to read as the stories themselves. If only I could stop hoping. If only I could say to my heart: Give up. There's always opera. There's angel-food cake and neighborhood children caroling, and the look of autumn leaves on a wet roof. But no. My heart's some kind of idiotic fishing bobber.I believe he [God] takes more pleasure in his perfect creatures, and cheers them on like a brainless dad as they run roughshod over the rest of us. He gives us a need for love, and no way to get any. He gives us a desire to be liked, and personal attributes that make us utterly un-likable. Having placed his flawed and needy children in a world of exacting specifications, he deducts the difference between what we have and what we need from our hearts and our self-esteem and our mental health.

  • Tin
    2018-09-19 15:02

    George Saunders is one of those wonderful discoveries I had last year. His Folio Prize winning Tenth of December blew me away and I knew I had to read more, if not all, of his works. I wanted to go down the line of his fiction books, with Civilwarland in Bad Decline being the earliest, published 17 years earlier than Tenth of December. The short stories from the former may not be as polished and potent as those of the later, but it still has everything I loved about Saunders' writing. It is unguarded and offhanded and very conversational. The protagonists in all the seven stories fit the downtrodden and the disadvantaged kind. Vulnerable characters that feel so real, I feel like my heart is being being skewered reading about their day to day lives of bleakness. He is a master at combining realism with surrealism. On one end, we have characters that are regular people, in terms of the voices Saunders lends them with. They are mostly rank and file employees: a wavemaker operator at a waterpark, an elderly museum worker, a raccoon trapper, a civil war re-enactment themed park assistant. And then he places them in a surreal setting of dystopian America, a picture of noxious wasteland, where the museum contains exhibits of pickled fetuses and a synthetic cow, a recreation center with mutants as slaves. He paints a pretty strange and terrifying landscape. Or he gives them claws instead of toes, or makes them weigh 400 pounds, or turn them boneless. But oh, their voices are so very human and real. He shows their capacity for stupidity, and revenge, and self loathing, but also their resilience and their gigantic hearts. And the humor, let's not forget to mention the wicked humor, and the biting satire, and the luminescent redemption (or epiphany) that cuts through the grim events like daggers of light piercing a dark room. Well, perhaps not the kind of redemption one expects, though. My favorites among the seven stories are:1. The 400-Pound CEO - This is a story about Jeffrey, an obese worker of a raccoon disposal company. He is this amiable guy who always does the right things. And is kind to even his d-bag boss and co-workers who ridicule him about his weight and virginity, and plays cruel tricks on him. But then something happens that lands him in jail. “I'm not a bad guy. If only I could stop hoping. If only I could say to my heart: Give up. Be alone forever. There's always opera. There's angel-food cake and neighborhood children caroling, and the look of autumn leaves on a wet roof. But no. My heart's some kind of idiotic fishing bobber.”2. The Wavemaker Falters -This is about a wavemaker operator, living under a cloud of guilt as he is haunted by the ghost of Clyde, a boy he accidentally tore to bits by forgetting to put the filter on the wavemaker because he was busy watching group of girls in day-glo bathing suits. Ghost Clyde visits every night and tells him of the future he's been denied on account of being dead. The senior prom he is missing, or that Mexico trip with a hot girl he is supposed to be having."Having lost what has to be lost, my torn and black heart rebels, saying enough already, enough, this is as low as I go."3. Offloading for Mrs. Schwartz - This one tells of a guy who runs a virtual reality arcade with modules (games) as strange as "Legendary American Killers Stalk You", "Sexy Nurses Scrub You Down" and "Violated Prom Queen." He too is racked by guilt and unhappines from the death of his wife. He soon finds a way to extract his memory and place it on a disk."Your heart has never been broken. You've never done anything unforgivable or hurt anyone beyond reparation. Everyone you've ever loved you've treated like gold."4. Bounty - This one is about a Flawed (mutant), a young, innocent boy with claws instead of toes, escapes from his workplace/prison in order to go after his sister (another Flawed) who was taken by a Normal. Only the outside world he escapes to isn't any better. Flaweds are looked down upon, forbidden to cohabitate with Normals, traded as slaves or killed. And he gets into some pretty tight spots and brutal situations. But ended up having another purpose aside from finding his sister."I think of Connie. I remember the autumn before the purge, when the Flaweds in our grade school were fitted with bracelets during a surprise assembly. Connie and I stood there blinking madly as a Normal janitor named Fabrizi fired up his welding tool. At home Connie decorated her bracelet with glitter glue. Dad called her a trooper and praised her gumption, then broke down in sobs."Civilwarland in Bad Decline is a wonderful short story collection. As far as dystopian literature goes, it is an effective one because not only does it present a decayed world filled with greed, hate, corruption and ecological degradation but it underscores the fact that such a world is achieved by human choice. And I feel such a mad world is possible in the future too. Powerful stuff. Special Thanks to Meliza of Mecanism for giving me a copy.See Original Post Here: Rabbitin

  • Hazal Çamur
    2018-09-22 11:46

    Türkçede yayımlanmış bütün Saunders kitaplarını okumuş biri olarak yapacağım bu yorumu.Eğer yazarı tanıyorsanız kitap tam bir "tipik Saunders kitabı". Erken dönem öyküleri olmasına rağmen kara mizahı, hicvi ve en umulmadık andaki acımasızlığıyla birlikte yoğrulan kalemi çok tanıdık. Ancak kitaptaki öykülerin teması Pastoralya'ya oldukça benziyordu. Bu da kitabın benim gözümdeki yegane eksisi oldu.Yine sıra dışı bir kafanın ürünü olan öyküler bir şekilde, çoğunlukla, müşterilere hizmet edilen tema parklar konseptinde dönüyordu. Bundan hoşlanmadım. Diğer kitaplarına oranla mekanlardaki bu az çeşitlilik ve hatta yer yer tekdüzelik yazara yakıştırdığım bir şey değil. Oysa hicvini çıkardığı dağlara ve özgün kurmacalarına hiçbir lafım yok.Kitap öykülerden oluşmasının yanı sıa bir adet de novella içeriyor. Yine edebi yanı olduğu kadar fikirleri de güçlü bir kitap olmuş. Ama Saunders sıralamamda bir yere koyacak olsam listeye ortalardan bir yerlerden sokardım diye düşünüyorum. Üst sıralara oynamadı fakat alt sıralarda kesinlikle değil.Son olarak, çeviri ve editörlük Delidolu Kitap'ın her zamanki kalitesinde. Tertemiz, mis gibi, okuru rahatsız edecek hiçbir şey olmadığı gibi yerinde Türkçeleştirmelerle oldukça keyifli de.

  • Jon
    2018-10-07 10:54

    A collection of short stories and one novella, this was Saunders’ debut and I have decidedly mixed feelings about it. It has glowing reviews and the cover blurbs all proclaim that George Saunders is a brilliant satirist and this book marks “the debut of an exciting new voice in fiction” (I really need to start ignoring cover blurbs when making book-buying decisions). Comparisons are made to Kurt Vonnegut and Nathaniel West throughout the review excerpts, but I really didn’t feel the book lived up to all the hype. Saunders is a savage satirist, but is probably better when taken in small doses. There’s a sameness to the stories and he tends to be repetitive in themes and settings. There’s only six short stories and one novella in the collection, yet four of them take place in run-down amusement parks. Yes, that’s a great setting for a story, with rich possibilities of social satire among the seedy attractions and grease soaked food stalls, but not great enough to use over and over again.The book is funny, but be warned, the humor is quirky and more than a little twisted. In “The 400-Pound CEO”, the main character works for Humane Raccoon Alternatives where nuisance raccoons are trapped and then set free in the wild (or so their sales brochures claim):“At noon, another load of raccoons comes in, and Claude takes them out back of the office and executes them with a tire iron. Then he checks for vitals wearing protective gloves. Then he drags the cage across 209 and initiates burial by dumping the raccoons into the pit that's our little corporate secret. After burial comes prayer, a personal touch that never fails to irritate Tim, our ruthless CEO.Post-burial, I write up the invoices and a paragraph or two on how overjoyed the raccoons were when we set them free. Sometimes I'll throw in something about spontaneous mating beneath the box elders. No one writes a better misleading letter than me. In the area of phone inquiries, I'm also unsurpassed. When a client calls to ask how their release went, everyone in the office falls all over themselves transferring the call to me. I'm reassuring and joyful. I laugh until tears run down my face at the stories I make up regarding the wacky things their raccoon did upon gaining its freedom”Saunders takes great pleasure in skewering corporate culture. The employers in the stories are, more often than not, venal, shallow, and speak in the gibberish of corporate-speak: "Respect," says one of them. "That's the quality I hope to imbibe to you during the confab that is to follow this present preface I'm extolling."His stories are dark, with surreal and bizarre touches throughout them. In the title story, in-between showing potential investors around the decrepit amusement park he works at, the main character talks to the ghosts of a settler family haunting the park. In "Downtrodden Mary's Failed Campaign of Terror", one of the attractions is a see-through cow with a piece of Plexiglas imbedded in it and another is a “Pickled Babies” exhibit where jars of babies immersed in formaldehyde line the walls. This is a dystopian world, filled with grotesques and the characters rarely arrive at anything resembling a happy ending:“I have a sense that God is unfair and preferentially punishes his weak, his dumb, his fat, his lazy. I believe he takes more pleasure in his perfect creatures and cheers them on like a brainless dad as they run roughshod over the rest of us. He gives us a need for love and no way to get any. He gives us a desire to be liked and personal attributes that make us utterly unlikable. Having placed his flawed and needy children in a world of exacting specifications, he deducts the difference between what we have and what we need from our hearts and our self-esteem and our mental health.”I’d recommend it only to people that like quirky and a little twisted. It’s funny, but the humor is dark and the world view is cynical. In the stories, society is collectively sitting in a hand basket, but doesn’t have the wherewithal to ask where it’s going.

  • gwayle
    2018-10-08 16:58

    This is a hard one to rate. I found three of the stories--"CivilWarLand in Bad Decline," "Isabelle," and "The 400-Pound CEO"--absolutely revelatory: trust me, you have never read anything like these stories before. At the risk of adjective overload, they are clever, unsettling, unexpected, and deeply moving--easily five star material. They are dark and apocalyptic but hysterical and heartwarming: the world's gone terribly, terribly wrong, but the narrators are sympathetic, likable guys with familiar weaknesses and desires, trying their best to get by in a society that is deteriorating in horrifying ways, where bureaucracy is ridiculously out of control and sadism and selfishness abound unchecked. Each protagonist somehow challenges the status quo, usually with devastating results, but you love them for it. They aren't really heroic, but their good intentions, blundering innocence, and unadorned decency are shining beacons of hope amid the moral wreckage that surrounds them.The remaining stories follow the same pattern but failed to move me; they range from good/OK to tedious. The bizarre circumstances and setting are given the spotlight, and though definitely original, I tire easily of indulgent flights of fancy and gimmicky castles in the sand.It was worth the read for those three stories, though.

  • Glenn Sumi
    2018-09-26 13:06

    A tough book to rate. More like 3.5.Blown away by Saunders's most recent book of stories, Tenth Of December, I was curious about his debut book of stories and a novella, published in 1996. There are similar themes: dystopias, social injustice, exploitation. And that unique narrative voice – satiric, colloquial, with a finely tuned ear to the banal cadences of the tech world and corporate-speak – is certainly there.But perhaps because I liked the later book so much, these feel embryonic, brimming with potential rather than fully realized. Later on he would sharpen his prose to a fine point, clarify what he wanted to say and how he wanted to say it. He's still a champion of the underdog, especially the under- and unemployed. He's still critical of authority; there are lots of horrible bosses in this book. And he displays a wickedly funny imagination: many of these stories are set in absurd theme parks that have a kernel of truth about them.But a lot of these tales sound the same. And even though I read December a year ago, the best of those stories still linger with me in a way that these don't.Here's my review of Tenth Of December: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  • Ümit
    2018-10-15 09:54

    İçSavaşDiyarı Feci Düşüşte, George Saunders’ın ilk öykülerinin yer aldığı, yayımlanan ilk kitabı. Fakat bu ilklik herhangi bir çağdışılık taşımıyor. Kitap dünyaya 1996 yılından bakıyor ama yarattığı kestirim ilk günkü kadar taze; çünkü öyküler güçlü, zekice yazılmış ve en önemlisi, tamamı büyük bir öngörü sahibi.Örneğin kitaptaki son öyküyü, yani "Bereket" isimli novellayı ele alırsak bu öngörüyü daha rahat anlayabiliriz: "Normal" insanları eğlendirmekle yükümlü "kusurlu"larla dolu bir eğlence parkı ve o parktan kaçıp insanlıktan nasibini almamış bir ülkeyi gözlemleyen bir kusurlu, öykünün iskeletini oluşturuyor. Distopik bir Amerika yolculuğuna çıkan kahraman, hem öteki olmanın zorluğunu acı deneyimlerle aktarıyor hem de insanların kötülüğünün bir sınırı olmadığını kanıtlıyor. Elbette kahramanın yaşadığı bu belirsiz çağ aslında günümüzün bir yansıması; zira herhangi bir kusura sahip olmadıkları halde milyonlarca insan da şu an tam bir öteki hayatı yaşıyor ve kısacık ömürleri sefaletle geçiyor.Diğer öyküler de son derece güçlü. Kitaba adını veren "İçSavaşDiyarı Feci Düşüşte" yine bir tema parkı ve parka çekidüzen vermesi için alınan bir savaş suçlusunun ortalığı birbirine katışını anlatıyor. "180 Kiloluk Genel Müdür" travmalarla dolu bir zihni yansıtıyor, "Dalgayapar Bozulunca" vicdan azabını, "Isabelle" ırkçılığı öne çıkarıyor. "Ezik Mary’nin Başarısızlıkla Sonuçlanan Terör Harekâtı" işverenlerin daha dikkatli olması gerektiğini vurgularken, kitaptaki en bilimkurgu öykü olan "Son İndirme Bayan Schwartz İçin", sahip olduğumuz anılarla yaşamanın aslında ne kadar zor bir iş olduğunu anımsatıyor.Yani Saunders’ın kahramanları yine her zamanki kadar garip gureba, fakir fukara, absürt, rezil, üçkâğıtçı ve yalnız. Hatta yapayalnız... Bu yalnızlığın, insana hiç hesaba katmayacağı şeyler yaptırdığını ve insanın hayattaki en büyük gayesinin yalnızlıktan kurtulmak olduğunu gayet iyi kavrayan Saunders, karakterlerini de son derece kalın çizgilerle çizerek onları yalnızlıkla dolu bir dünyanın içine atıveriyor. Yani hikâye, karakterlerin çevresinden akıyor.Elbette, Saunders’ın resmettiği manzaralar Amerikan kültürüne oldukça bağlı. Fakat öyküleri aynı zamanda evrensel de kılan şey, karakterlerin sahip olduğu bu derinlik. Herhangi bir öyküdeki herhangi bir karakter, herhangi bir yazarın herhangi bir öyküsüne yerleştirilse yine pek sırıtmaz. Çünkü yazar, insana dair, insanla ilgili şeyleri anlatıyor ve bu yüzden, kısıtlı bir dönem anlatısının ya da basit bir olay örgüsünün tuzağına düşmekten kurtuluyor. Öyle ki, Amerikan İç Savaşı’nı arka planına aldığı ve doğrudan doğruya Abraham Lincoln’ün oğlunu anlattığı Arafta’da bile kültürel bir duygu sömürüsüne gitmiyor Saunders. Ölümü, yaşamı ve ikisinin arasında kalmışlığı anlatmak için o yılları bir paravan olarak kullanıyor. George Saunders, "kendine has" tanımlamasını kesinlikle hak eden bir yazar. Gerek öykülerinde yarattığı atmosfer gerekse birbirinden özgün karakterleriyle, modern edebiyattan hoşlanan ve çağımızın dertlerinden mustarip olan okurları kendine mıknatıs gibi çekmeyi başarıyor.

  • Nate
    2018-09-26 15:53

    8/12/13 Further Thoughts:If there's a good analog to Saunders I think it's Vonnegut. More than anything because of the imaginitive quality of their respective works than anything else. But also the strangeness that they force the readers to just accept as parameters of their world. I've detected a furtive sense of comparison, particularly on this site, to DFW (everyone of my reviews seems to come back to him. Crutch or brainwash on my part? Or was he as boldly important as the DFW cult says he is. Another time perhaps.) For my part, I don't sense it. Maybe on the first and last stories of Tenth of December, because there's nothing really surreal about them. DFW, even in certain surreal or just hard to believe parts (sonic balls for blind tennis players, the whole idea of wheelchair assassins, fact psychic Claude Slyvanshine in The Pale King &c). But that seems to be Saunders calling card. Surreality. I don't see him as a futurist/speculative/sci-fi guy in a lot of ways. Honestly, his landscapes often look like a twisted amalgamation of America and American ideals/thoughts/mottos/characters/histories with the kind of chaotic and horrendous social structure similar to what we associate with like an India or Russia w/r/t (DFWism, it permeates everywhere) where the disenfranchised are seeing things. I've mentioned elsewhere that there feels like a moral piety in Saunders' fiction that is on display for the reader. One potential grievance I find in this is that readers can too easily pat themselves on the back for identifying with characters whose morals are so black and white. (What reader isn't going to shake there heads and make tisk tisk sounds while the narrator of Bounty tells us that the 13th ammendmant was repealed?) This to me is more a matter of my own predilections in fiction. I prefer the line to be skewed. I prefer to be paralyzed like the characters in Saunders' fiction. This is why America loves Walter White, yes? Or perhaps he is more intriguing than loveable, but don't discount those still on his side. Brief Confession/Aside w/r/t Breaking Bad: I have not made it through season 3 yet. I am illustrating a point mostly with hearsay of spoiler-free Twitter comments. I usually don't have a problem with spoilers so I'm only going to ask you to not spoil if it would make you feel guilty afterwards, assuming that there is any Breaking Bad relevance in any potential comments. Continuing...Of course what this moral piety could possibly exemplify is how easy it is to identify the problem whilst reading, but it's quite another for characters actually going through the various ordeals and fears; fears largely of being fired (I imagine Marxist literary critics read this book with one hand and moan about every other paragraph). And so, for me at least, there is a disconnect. Because I'm sitting above these characters, critiquing them instead of empathizing with them. Share any thoughts you have with me in the comments...Previous Posts:8/11/13 Finished and Immediate Reaction: Could give it five stars. Bounty felt like a three hundred page novel condensed into 100 pages. Undecided as to whether all the apocalyptic capitlism is gimmicky or brilliantly original. 8/10/13 Reading Thoughts: At a certain point, this being my third Saunders collection this summer, his stories start to feel claustrophobic. He said something on Colbert this winter to the effect of: a short story is you trying to tell someone you love them and you've only got three minutes. Okay, good analogy, but what happens when Papa Nate wants to settle down and not just hear "I love you" but show and perform and have it be shown and performed to him. The story of Saunders so far: In the beginning capitalism was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move; capitalism being the worse kind of free: the free market. Lest I sound like I've had enough of schtick it's not true. But if I'm going to hold Chuck Palahniuk to a standard of getting tired with his schtick, oughtn't I to hold George to the same standard in that both authors rely on pretty much similar themes throughout their respective canons. It occurs to me that I'm biased to the kind of weird that George Saunders is. Not so much that Chuck is, however.

  • Kay
    2018-10-13 11:55

    This is some of the saddest and most affecting fiction I've read in a little while. Saunders taps into something dark and introspective in this book by using bizarre settings and fantastical elements. He's obviously at the top tier of science fiction writers working today. Though I see from the reviews "Offloading Mrs. Schwartz" is regarded as the deepest emotionally in this book (it's really good), I actually found myself returning to thinking about "The 400-pound CEO" and "Downtrodden Mary's Failed Campaign of Terror" -- both of which use common tropes of outsiderness, obesity and age, as key aspects of the narrators' lives. And I don't think it's an accident that Saunders chooses theme parks as the setting for his stories. There's something slightly surreal about these places when you visti them as an adult. They're manufactured for fun, but they're also filled with largely despondent, reckless or otherwise disaffected workers. That dynamic is a powerful thing that Saunders uses in his stories. I'm really glad I read this book.

  • Jordan
    2018-09-26 11:46

    An excellent compilation of short stories with biting criticisms of today's views and technologies shown through their ultimate excesses born out in the future. The titular short story is particularly hilarious and provides a great deal of commentary on the American worker and how culture develops. The Four Hundred Pound CEO is also a story well worth reading, hilarious and demonstrative of the hidden and visible crosses we are all forced to bear. Though some would argue that all of Saunder's work in this compilation covers the same motif's using similar protagonists, I tend to think that this commentary and point of view is is both refreshing and necessary.

  • Leo Robertson
    2018-10-02 15:09

    Pornographic sadness. He gets better though :)

  • Althea Ann
    2018-10-10 13:45

    This month's post-apocalyptic book club selection...A slim collection of seven short stories... well, six short stories and one longish story. Individually, every one of these stories was very good. However, in the end, I wound up deducting a star because, well, they're all kind of the same story.Don't get me wrong, I'm aware that's kind of the point... but it got a bit repetitive.Civilwarland in Bad Decline - A hapless worker is stuck in his job at a decrepit, near-bankrupt historical theme park recreating the Civil War. The reader gradually realizes that the United States outside the theme park is in even worse shape, as the park is terrorized by violent gangs, and the boss comes up with a solution that might be worse than the problem.Isabelle - In an America torn by racial violence and brutality, a boy is motivated to care for the disabled daughter of a murderous cop.The Wavemaker Falters - A hapless worker at a water theme park accidentally causes a boy's death, and, guilt-ridden, faces the consequences of that, while dealing with the quotidian banality of his job.The 400-pound CEO - A fat guy whom no one respects is a hapless worker at a pest-trapping company that claims to catch-and-release, but really dumps the bodies of the raccoons they trap in a big ol' pit. When his boss attacks an animal-rights activist who's discovered the secret, the worker ends up killing him, and concocts an ill-thought-out plan to take over the company.Offloading for Mrs. Schwartz - A guilt-ridden, hapless worker at a virtual reality franchise has a failing venture... until he comes up with an ethically terrible and ill-advised plan to boost business.Downtrodden Mary's Failed Campaign of Terror - Hapless worker with a horrible, violent past. An 'Americana' theme park called 'Our Nation's Bounty.' Visitors that imply that, outside, America has gone to hell. And the demise of the See-Through Cows.Bounty - A medieval-style theme park where all the hapless workers are mutants. It seems like they've got it pretty bad - but outside, things are even worse: a post-apocalyptic, violent America where people are starving and mutants are likely to be lynched.

  • Ned
    2018-10-20 13:58

    Science fiction does not normally tickle my fancy, but this time is relevant as just a few decades into the American future and I enjoyed the humorously dark short stories of theme parks and working-class pathos, but I truly loved the novella: My experience with short stories capped with a novella is a good one, where this first time author (in 1996) seems to be warming up and readying for a novel. The novella "Bounty" is my favorite, a kind of Pilgrim's Progress where the mutated minority (the "Flaweds") live in a privileged prison but long for the freedom outside, yet fear its wildness. Cole, the protagonist, if finally driven to scale the wall and escape, attempting to hide his flaw (clawed feet, but the many other descriptions of other Flaweds is absolutely screechingly hilarious, yet sad). He is trying to find his sister, sold as a prostitute to a "Normal". His experiences are nothing less than rollicking, reminiscent more of Bunyan's odyssey but stylistically of TC Boyle with his craziness. Saunders is a lean writer, every single word and sentence propulsive, rich and with a driving purpose. The nonsensical fluffiness and silliness of the story is belied by universal themes of slavery, privilege and mostly the cruelty of man (woman and child). I thought of it as a lighthearted version of McCarthy's "The Road" which I'm holding in reserve (so I don't read him all up). Saunders' voice is peculiar, fresh and rich. Here's a snippet when Cole's latest misadventure is being re-sold into slavery and his new master is rationalizing his actions (no doubt a parallel to all in history who justified their misdeeds): "'Frankly, I abhor this slavery thing.' the man says to me. 'But you can't fight it. So I do my part to treat my people like human beings. My name's Ned Ventor. I consider myself to be working for change from within the system'." He goes then into a soliloquy about positive thinking and empowerment of the slaves that rivals the best corporate doublespeak I've heard (and I've heard a lot) to convince his human assets of their fortunate status.For a genre which I don't usually enjoy, this little volume from Saunders is brilliant and meaningful and sheer reading enjoyment. I will be back!

  • Drew
    2018-10-06 14:54

    This is the first Saunders I've read, and I have to say there are a lot of surface-level similarities with some Wallace stuff. The most obvious is that Saunders wants to communicate a really bleak message about late-stage capitalism, but he feels the need to make his prose consistently and manically funny so that people will bother to read it. I like a funny book as much as the next guy, but I do occasionally feel a little insulted by an author who seems to think I'll stop reading if the jokes don't keep coming.The best part of this particular set of stories is the world Saunders has created, which all of the stories' characters inhabit. America has gone even further on the path it's currently on, becoming an almost entirely service-based economy. But nobody really wants to partake of the services that they offer: historically inaccurate Civil War reenactments, fake resorts, raccoon "relocation," and any number of others. Also, more and more people seem to be genetically messed up due to pesticides or radiation or whatever causes these things. So you have a boneless girl named Boneless (seems to be just like the Quebecois in Infinite Jest) and a whole race of Flaweds who tend to be either slaves or indentured servants. This definitely makes me want to read In Persuasion Nation and Pastoralia, and also makes me wish Saunders wrote novels. Also, "The Wavemaker Falters" is for whatever reason my favorite short story title of all time.

  • Mike Carey
    2018-10-20 16:56

    This is a very hard book to describe. I found it really compelling and hard to put down, but Saunders' view of the world is so desolate and harrowing that I came away emotionally sandblasted. I think that was part of the intended effect, and I don't mean it as a criticism.The protagonists in Saunders' stories are mostly helpless and adrift in a world that's been trashed and pillaged by twenty-first century capitalism and then recreated by canny, cynical entrepreneurs as a heritage experience. Civilwarland, a decaying and besieged historical theme park, is his central metaphor for our lives. He sees modern humanity as shipwrecked, disinherited, deprived in every respect of authentic experience, authentic emotion, and hooked on the high-sugar high-salt ersatz alternatives provided for us by our corporate masters.But like Cormac McCarthy, he puts this ultra-bleak vision across in brilliant, finely turned and often hilarious prose. The counsel of despair comes laced with exquisite black comedy, and Saunders' continued refusal to console makes us search for the redeeeming scraps of compassion and humanity in our own world - for some means of distancing ourselves from this distorted but all too recognisable nightmare. So although you come away with the feeling of having been dragged through a toxic landfill backwards, there's an exhilaration in the mix too. It's a *good* pain, and I'm definitely going back for more.

  • Mac
    2018-09-26 09:55

    With George Saunders receiving so much positive press these days, I decided to try CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. Now having read the short story collection, I can understand the acclaim. The stories are imaginative, distinctive, unusual, full of bizarre characters inhabiting bizarre worlds. Those characters are more weird circus freaks than everyday neighbors, and those worlds are theme parks you've never visited before. Throughout it all, the tone is an odd mix of resignation, hostility, and offbeat humor. All this adds up to an original brew, a mix of trailer park squalor and science fiction gone awry.That said, I didn't like the stories all that much. Yes, there's understated humor throughout, but there's too much dystopian negative ambiance, too much casual savagery, and too little to feel good about. And stylistically, Saunders seems to be showing off--how odd a situation can I create, how over-the-top can I be, how telling a detail can I insert, how strange a deformity can I dream up... And though the scenario in each story is a different--and quite odd--theme park, there is a sameness to those scenarios and a sameness to each narrator's first person voice.To summarize, I can see why the critics rave, but conversely, I know why I didn't enjoy the stories and why I'm not so impressed.