Summary and book reviews of Pastoralia by George Saunders

Pastoralia

by George Saunders

Pastoralia
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2000, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2001, 224 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Set in a slightly skewed version of America, where elements of contemporary life have been merged, twisted, and amplified, casting their absurdity—and our humanity—in a startling new light.

His remarkable first collection of stories was hailed by The New York Times as "the debut of an exciting new voice in fiction." Garrison Keillor called him "wildly funny, pure, generous—all that a great humorist should be." With this new collection, George Saunders takes us even further into the shocking, uproarious and oddly familiar landscape of his imagination.

The stories in Pastoralia are set in a slightly skewed version of America, where elements of contemporary life have been merged, twisted, and amplified, casting their absurdity—and our humanity—in a startling new light. Whether he writes a gothic morality tale in which a male exotic dancer is haunted by his maiden aunt from beyond the grave, or about a self-help guru who tells his followers his mission is to discover who's been "crapping in your oatmeal," Saunders's stories are both indelibly strange and vividly real.

George Saunders has been identified as a writer in the tradition of Mark Twain, Thomas Pynchon, and Kurt Vonnegut—"a savage satirist with a sentimental streak," said The New York Times. In this new collection, Saunders brings greater wisdom and maturity to the worldview he established with CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, leaving no doubt about his place as the brilliant successor to these writers.

1

I have to admit I'm not feeling my best. Not that I'm doing so bad. Not that I really have anything to complain about. Not that I would actually verbally complain if I did have something to complain about. No. Because I'm Thinking Positive/Saying Positive. I'm sitting back on my haunches, waiting for people to poke in their heads. Although it's been thirteen days since anyone poked in their head and Janet's speaking English to me more and more, which is partly why I feel so, you know, crummy.

"Jeez," she says first thing this morning. "I'm so tired of roast goat I could scream."

What am I supposed to say to that? It puts me in a bad spot. She thinks I'm a goody-goody and that her speaking English makes me uncomfortable. And she's right. It does. Because we've got it good. Every morning, a new goat, just killed, sits in our Big Slot. In our Little Slot, a book of matches. That's better than some. Some are required to catch ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

Esquire

Saunders is a provocateur, a moralist, a zealot, a lefty, and a funny, funny writer, and the stories in Pastoralia delight. We're very lucky to have them.

Men's Journal

Dazzling…These stories, injected with Saunders's highly original blend of irony and tenderness, ride you down spirals of the absurd and fling you back to your own life, startled. They're more real and more current than today's newspaper.

Vogue

Dead-on…The title story alone is so crazily insightful it may turn out to be a minor classic. Saunders shines a harsh light on the pep-rally rhetoric of the modern American workplace.

Kirkus Reviews

Being inside the teeming heads of [Saunders's characters] is amusing and enlightening. So accurately are they rendered, in all their flawed glory, that they appear not only perfectly human but familiar.

Booklist

Sharp, unnerving, and compassionate…Saunders's mordant wit and biting insights make his surreal stories crackle with alternating currents of humor and pathos.

Publishers Weekly

Saunders's extraordinary talent is in top form ... his vision of a hellishly (and hopefully) exaggerated dystopia of late capitalist America is warmed and impassioned by his regular, irregular and flat-out wacky characters.

Reader Reviews

R. Sue

I can't imagine not loving this book. I carried it around with me for six months just to read at will throughout the day. RSD

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Pastoralia, try these:

  • The Family Fang jacket

    The Family Fang

    by Kevin Wilson

    Published 2012

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    Meet The Family Fang, an unforgettable collection of demanding, brilliant, and absolutely endearing oddballs whose lives are risky and mischievous performance art.

  • Swamplandia! jacket

    Swamplandia!

    by Karen Russell

    Published 2011

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    From the celebrated twenty-nine-year-old author of the everywhere-heralded short-story collection St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves comes a blazingly original debut novel that takes us back to the swamps of the Florida Everglades, and introduces us to Ava Bigtree, an unforgettable young heroine.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes

Books with similar themes


Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Opposite of Everyone
by Joshilyn Jackson

"Quirky and appealing characters, an engaging story, and honest dialogue make this a great book!"
- BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: All We Have Left
    All We Have Left
    by Wendy Mills
    September 11, 2001 is a date that few Americans will ever forget. It was on this day that our ...
  • Book Jacket: A Great Reckoning
    A Great Reckoning
    by Louise Penny
    Canadian author Louise Penny is back with her twelfth entry in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache ...
  • Book Jacket: Homegoing
    Homegoing
    by Yaa Gyasi
    It's all very well to challenge people to be the masters of their own destiny, but when you&#...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Victoria
    by Daisy Goodwin

    Daisy Goodwin breathes new life into Victoria's story, and does so with sensitivity, verve, and wit." - Amanda Foreman

    Read Member Reviews

Who Said...

If there is anything more dangerous to the life of the mind than having no independent commitment to ideas...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay:
$400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.