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Something Is Going On With That George Saunders Story

Filed under: Little Words   Tagged: , , ,

Jonathan Taylor writes:

I don't read New Yorker fiction that regularly. I don't bring up a New Yorker story and say, Did you read...? I did both with George Saunders's "Victory Lap." And then the person I say it to, who also doesn't talk to me about New Yorker fiction, suddenly says she's been thinking about it ever since she read it.

Emily recalls a similar flurry of people being struck and moved en masse when Lorrie Moore's story "People Like That Are the Only People Here" came out in the magazine in 1997.

It's true—you should read it on paper. On the subway, tonight.


Spooky! Just read this in The Atlantic online:

Just as urbanish professionals in the 1950s could be counted on to collectively coo and argue over the latest Salinger short story, so that set in the 2000s has been most intellectually, emotionally, and aesthetically engaged not by fiction, the theater, or the cinema but by The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Deadwood, The Shield, Big Love.

Like boiled pigs knuckles, say, or frozen whale blubber, George Saunders’ stories are an acquired taste. Personally, I cannot stomach them. On your suggestion, I read “Victory Lap.” What a vile piece of work! It’s not only that it lacks reality – although that’s a serious enough charge, in my view, to sink any piece of writing – it’s the sophomoric humor (“Anal-cock shit-bird rectum-fritz!”), comic-book silliness (“Holy crap. It was happening.”), and the pervasive mockery and condescension (“On the other hand, sometimes rural folk, even if their particular farms were on hills, stayed up late filling sandbags.”) that I find rotten. I guess some people – including The New Yorker fiction editor - like Saunders’ work for its bizarreness. They think it’s cool in some crazy way? Well, I think it’s just plain inhuman. If you want to know the kind of short story I like, I would say that Maile Meloy’s “Travis B.” (The New Yorker, October 28, 2002) is just about perfection. One sentence by Meloy (e.g., her description of feeding horses in “Travis B.”: “He gave them each another coffee canful of grain, which slid yellow over itself.”), is worth a whole garbage truck-load of Saunders.

That’s funny, every now and then I write about a New Yorker short story on my website, and this was one of those times! I really enjoyed it.

Here’s my take on it

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