Pastoralia

Pastoralia

Stories

eBook - 2000
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Named by The New Yorker one of the Twenty Best American Fiction Writers Under Forty, George Saunders has been recognized as a visionary storyteller with a hypnotic style. Critics have placed him in the tradition of Kurt Vonnegut, Mark Twain, and Thomas Pynchon -- "a savage satirist with a sentimental streak," said The New York Times. These stories bring greater wisdom and maturity to the worldview he established with his first collection, and leave little doubt that he has found a place in modern fiction all his own.
Here you find people who live and work in a simulated, theme-park cave and communicate with their loved ones via fax machine. You encounter a family happily gathered around their favorite form of entertainment, a computer-generated TV show called The Worst That Could Happen. And you hear an upbeat self-help guru sermonize about how figuring out who's been "crapping in your oatmeal" will help raise your self-esteem. With an uncanny sense of how our culture reflects our character, Saunders mixes a deadpan naturalism with a wicked sense of humor to reveal a picture of contemporary America that's both feverishly strange and, through his characters' perseverance, oddly hopeful.
If Americans in the future were to try to send us a message about where our culture is heading, they might simply point to the fiction of George Saunders. Living in a world that's both indelibly original and hauntingly familiar, the characters in these stories bring to life our most absurd tendencies, and allow us to see ourselves in a shocking, uproariously funny new light.
Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, 2000
ISBN: 9781573221610
1573221619
Characteristics: 1 online resource (188 pages)

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seabun
Nov 29, 2017

Intended to just read "Sea Oak", a requirement for school, enjoyed the story enough to read the rest of this collection. For me, while I found portions of each tale funny, sad, interesting and/or gripping, it was really a few that left me wanting more and really moved, while the others were just okay. Other than Sea Oak, which I've seen might be a show on Amazon now, the stories I really liked, namely because I wanted to know more, to keep reading, were "The End of FIRPO in the World" and "The Barber's Unhappiness." Each were quite short, and I felt great disappointment upon turning the last page only to see the next story starting. In their brevity, Saunders captivated my attention with colorful, exaggerated-yet-familiar, fully articulated characters that I felt a connection to, laughed at their idiosyncrasies and felt pangs of sadness at their flaws. I found myself thinking about them long after putting the book down, which to me is a sign the author did something right.
Of the other two stories, "The Falls" was intriguing if a little unfulfilling. It felt the most incomplete, perhaps? And lastly, the titular "Pastoralia", being the longest tale, surely encapsulated an entire world and the faceless bosses, only referenced through rambling funny faxes, were infuriating in their incompetence, as well as their familiarity.
This was my first introduction to George Saunders, and I can't say I'd have ever come across this book without my school's nudge, but I am glad I did. Definitely want to read at least one more Saunders collection to see what else he comes up with. My only real critique or hesitation would be that the humor of the satire was almost uniformly outweighed by the despair, the sadness, the utter hopelessness of some of the characters' situations, which can be at times a little overwhelming. I don't mind dystopian tales, having recently thoroughly enjoyed Alexander Weinstein's "Children of the New World," but maybe I prefer a little more hope or ha-ha with my long looks in the mirror.

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paul5151
Jan 04, 2016

To paraphrase Saunders "why are the losers in this world being kicked so hard when they're down?" Satire my friends.k

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lukasevansherman
Mar 30, 2013

Saunders is maybe the most acclaimed short story writer currently working, although I am struggling to figure out why. I just read his latest collection, "Tenth of December," and couldn't get into it. I feel the same way about this earlier book. I think the ideal audience are those who find the irony-heavy humor of "McSweeney's" enjoyable. I just don't get this guy.

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