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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 angst Saunders can conjure. But the stories in this particular collection come to inevitable conclusions that seem more obligatory than discovered, the exception being "Sea Oak," a quite magnificent story that extends like the best Saunders stories do, taking you to surprising depths and ending somewhere so profoundly emotional you'll have no idea you've been caring the hell out of these characters all along. While the title story is well imagined, it comes in at a far second for its exploration of work politics, but something he captured to greater extent in "The 400-Pound CEO."
But there is never any doubt how well Saunders can string a sentence together. This is from "The Barber's Unhappiness":
At home old-lady cars were in the driveway and old-lady coats were piled on the couch and the house smelled like old lady and the members of the Altar and Rosary Society were gathered around the dining room table looking frail.
That's a magnificent set of words! Just wished I'd been more taken by surprise by where these stories went.
Just read it but wasn't "freaking" crazy about it. At times interesting but at other times completely missed the mark for me. Looks like I'm in the minority here but this author's prose and delivery didn't excite or engage me for some reason.
I had the unfortunate experience of downloading this book for my Kindle, not bothering to check the page count. My initial goal was to find a used copy somewhere in the neighborhood, but it turns out Saunders' books are rarely in stock. Even used copies on Amazon are expensive, expensive enough to second-guess paying a pretty high price for a book containing only a few stories.
First off, the title story is great. Classic Saunders, enjoyable from start to finish. The idea of a human zoo (and its connection with the outside world) is one of Saunders' best. "Winky" is good, but partially forgettable because it just never fully takes off. "Sea Oak" is the most enjoyable in the entire book, and it also happens to be the weirdest. A male stripper, a relative who comes back from the grave, and an opportunity to escape poverty by any means necessary. This is the type of Saunders story that makes your eyes glaze over from time to time, your mind churning relentlessly to comprehend the underlying theme. How far would you go to escape poverty? How does your relationship with your family affect your relationship with the economy? Great stuff.
The remaining three stories are good, not great, and when the book is finished you'll find yourself satisfied but wondering: couldn't this have been priced a little lower? I think if I'd enjoyed more of the stories, I'd be less obsessed over whether I got my money's worth. Search your local library first.
Honestly, i rate it 3 stars because if you are into his writing style you will love it. Personally, i find his writing style too edgy, i feel like he is trying to hard with the format of this book, as well as the story lines he chose.
Closer to 4 stars, but it turns out I have read most of these before in The New Yorker. Saunders is a solid writer, no doubt. But I personally find his stuff a downer: about dystopia places and the losers who inhabit them.
This is a well written book of short stories. The title story is quite thought provoking. Saunders is an author that I need to read slowly, take out of context to compare to my life experiences and then digest his insights. His stories are good, albeit not uplifting.
This book is OK. It's just not my type of literature. I found it entertaining and read the whole thing. I read Wendell Berry's "Jaber Crow" that I enjoyed a lot, but now that I've read one of his books, I don't care to read any more at this time. "Pastoralia" is like that - I may not read George Saunders again, but you may like it a lot and read all of his books.