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Summary and book reviews of Pastoralia by George Saunders

Pastoralia

by George Saunders

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

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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 ...

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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

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