Friday, May 24, 2013
Saunders was a remarkable fresh voice when I first encountered him. His combination of surreal settings and technology mixed with the dirt and grit of human experience and an absurdist vision of American life and workplace mores placed him in the pantheon of American satire alongside Matt Groening, Nathaniel West, Twain, and Vonnegut. His double punch of Civilwarland in Bad Decline and Pastoralia signaled an impressive career. He has never made the move into novels and has concentrated on his short pieces and essays. His stories have occasionally moved towards realism which may be necessary but could render him indistinguishable from many other contemporaries. I would like to see him stretch his core vision into a novel; I know we should treasure the rare writer that concentrates on the neglected form of the short story but the results are getting increasingly spare. “Home” is the best story here where his dialogue resembles the zing of such masters as Charles Portis and Joy Williams. The story itself a despairing state of the union, could be criticized for hitting so many obvious points of contemporary American life (war, home foreclosures, health problems, domestic violence), but the story itself doesn’t feel like a polemic and is fresh, lively, comic, and humane. I will probably keep enjoying these occasional short story collections from Saunders but will keep hoping for more from him.