This is not going to be one of my more, shall we say, typical book reviews.
Or one of my more articulate.
You know how, when you become all gaga with a person, you lose all sense of being able to speak in regular sentences? And you start talking in adjectives and superlatives?
That’s me when it comes to George Saunders’ writing.
To put it mildly, I’m in major literary love.
I now talk about George Saunders the way my 11-year old daughter talks about Harry Styles of One Direction. (She is a major fan.)
This relationship – mine and George’s – is a fairly new one, although it started before he went viral yesterday with his commencement address at Syracuse. In January, I read an advance copy (thank you, NetGalley and Random House) of Tenth of December, Saunders’ newest (and much-praised) collection of short stories. Like the majority of people who have read this, I loved it.
One of the stories sounded really familiar until I realized that I’d read “Home” in The New Yorker, which tends to publish a great deal of Mr. Saunders’ work, it seems – so we had already met. (I reluctantly gave up my New Yorker subscription on Kindle last year when I got laid off.)
Anyway, so I started a review of Tenth of December with notes that look like this:
“Victory Lap” – incredible, so not what I was expecting!
“Sticks” – extremely short but an amazing story!
“Puppy” – absolutely the most heart wrenching story of the bunch, won’t forget this anytime soon
“Escape from Spiderhead”- dystopian feel to this
“Exhortation” – anyone who has ever received a memo in corporate-speak will appreciate this story
“My Chivalric Fiasco” – loved it!
Clearly, I have fallen down the rabbit hole because this has been sitting in my Drafts folder since January and I haven’t been able to muster up more of a proper review.
Then, about a month ago, the Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures series announced their 2013-14 lineup and guess who is coming to Pittsburgh this December 9?
My boy George.
I didn’t even know this when I went on their website to get tickets. At first all I was interested in was getting tickets to my other boyfriend’s talk (that would be Colum McCann). But then I saw that George was coming in December for $15 and I couldn’t pass that up.
And now I want to read everything by everyone I’m seeing. (I have tickets for Colum McCann, George, and Ann Patchett.)
So, on a recent trip to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, I spotted In Persuasion Nation.
And oh my God, holy hell.
In Persuasion Nation may be even better than Tenth of December.
How the hell does this guy DO this?! OK, granted, yes, he’s a unique style – which is what makes him so goddamn freaking good at this writing thing. He’s a master of satire and dark humor; you’ll be laughing (or, in my case, trying to stifle laughter while waiting for your Harry Styles’ loving daughter during her gymnastics lesson as other parents are chattering away about vacations and camps and other trivialities of life.) I’m not kidding: in any given 30 seconds, you could be laughing until you cry and then just as suddenly, crying because your heart is shattering.
These are emotionally-charged stories, loaded with dynamite, each one. (My favorites from In Persuasion Nation: “I Can Speak!,” “Jon,” “My Amendment” – so ironic to read this one days after the Supreme Court’s decision on DOMA! – “The Red Bow,” “Christmas,” “In Persuasion Nation,” and “Bohemians.”)
A few reviews I read of Saunders’ work recommends to read him in small doses. I can understand why that may be so. But see, here’s the thing. You can’t. They’re both excellent collections of short stories, make no mistake about that. You read one story and you immediately want another. And another. And another.
So then you tell yourself, OK, stop this crap. Put the book down and work on your own damn novel already. Which you do, and which is a joke and a half because all you can muster up is 354 words for all of July’s Camp NaNoWriMo and they are the most pathetic words you’ve ever written because YOU ARE NOT FREAKING GEORGE SAUNDERS.
And then yesterday and today, I see my boy George all over my Facebook newsfeed because of his commencement speech to Syracuse University graduates and of course the speech is kick-ass and brilliant and so-Saunders-like, and now everyone is in love with my boyfriend.
Read George Saunders, even if you’re convinced you don’t like short stories.
Especially if you’re convinced you don’t like short stories.
You’ll thank me, I’m sure.
That is all.