From the book jacket: George Saunders has earned enthusiastic acclaim and a devoted cult-following with his first two story collections and the recent novella The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil. With his new book, In Persuasion Nation, Saunders ups the ante in every way, and is poised to break out to a wide new audience.
The stories in In Persuasion Nation are easily his best work yet. "The
Red Bow," about a town consumed by pet-killing hysteria, won a 2004 National
Magazine Award and "Bohemians," the story of two supposed Eastern European
widows trying to fit in in suburban USA, is included in The Best American Short
Stories 2005. His new book includes both unpublished work, and stories that
first appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, and Esquire. The stories in this
volume work together as a whole whose impact far exceeds the simple sum of its
parts. Fans of Saunders know and love him for his sharp and hilarious satirical
eye. But In Persuasion Nation also includes more personal and poignant
pieces that reveal a new kind of emotional conviction in Saunders's writing.
Comment: American satire is alive and well in the hands of George Saunders and his third volume of short stories; but don't try and read them all at once - like a box of chocolate chip cookies they should be enjoyed one, perhaps two, at a time - however tempting it might be to gorge them all in one sitting!
In a 2006 interview at boldtype.com, Saunders was asked what draws him to write such "cheeky dystopian fantasies?" To which he replied, "Honestly, I just really have fun with those modes. After the fact, I can think up conceptual rationalizations, but at the moment that I'm writing it, that direction feels the warmest, the most interesting, the most fruitful...... If I try to write a realist story, the language goes flat and the energy is just gone. When I give myself permission to be goofy, then the story has more energy in it." He goes on to say, "I don't really care what's in the room, as long as when you come out, you're 6% more aware, more happy to be alive, more appreciative, more curious, instead of closed down."
These are outrageous, compelling and very funny stories but, as always, you don't have to take BookBrowse's word for it, instead you can read a complete short story for yourself at BookBrowse, and in the sidebar you'll find a link to audio downloads of two more stories from the collection.
This review was originally published in May 2006, and has been updated for the March 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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