Monthly Archives: April 2006

George Saunders, "My Amendment"

Banning gay marriage is not thorough enough for this letter writer.

(from In Persuasion Nation)

His theory is thatbanning gay marriage doesn’t tackle the whole issue, like what about “feminine” men marrying “masculine” women? Is that also an affront of some sort? It’s a crazy and funny story.

Susan Perabo, "This Is Not That Story"

A boy falls off a dorm balcony.

(from The Sun, March 2006)

After yesterday’s reading, with “writer” in the title, turned out not to be writerly and metafictiontastic, I guess I was fooling myself with this “Story” story. Well, it wasn’t meta, but it was grimly self-aware of writer tricks and purpose. Each segment offers insight into the people who happened to be nearby when the boy died, and hints at those characters’ backstories, then wraps it up with the zinger “but this is not that story.”
So, fine, the author does eventually get to “the” story, then pontificates for a little bit about truth and rumor, and damn if the previously wallpapery narrator (an all-knowing and impossible creature) doesn’t show up for the closing argument in first person. So yeah, this was very writerly.
So, it should have been a cup of tea other than my own. But I liked it. The story achieved its primary purpose, to tell a story, several stories, and to shine light on interesting facets of an incident and of people, saying something larger than its plot. And it stimulated and entertained as it did so. So. Right on.

Here‘s some info on Susan Perabo. She’s in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Here comes The Sun.

Manuel Gonzales, "Pilot, Co-Pilot, Writer"

A writer is trapped on a plane that can never land.

(from One Story #66)

We have been circling the city now at an altitude of between seven thousand and ten thousand feet for, according to our best estimates, around twenty years.

Yeah, it’s got “writer” in the title, but if this is meta-fiction then the metaphor is so obscured as to be rendered harmless. This is a think piece on what it would like to live the rest of your life on a peaceably hijacked plane. Food and fuel concerns are sci-fi’d away, and other technical objections are ignored, so the reader’s concentration is directed mostly at the interaction between passengers, and the way they while away the time. It’s an interesting enough premise, and the premise serves as the plot, with nothing much happening besides the hijacking that sets the table in the first place. So you’re along for the ride, upon an interesting idea with nowhere to land.
Here‘s an interview with Manuel Gonzales specifically about this story.

Recently, Dan Wickett of The Emerging Writers Network, asked me to join an “e-panel” wherein literary-minded bloggers are all asked the same questions via email. Then their answers are intermingled into something resembling a roundtable. Here‘s the link to that interview. As always, please tolerate my typos.

They Might Be Giants, “Shoehorn With Teeth”

George Saunders, "Jon"

Corporate-adopted trendsetters discover love and sex in their sheltered world of product testing.

(from In Persuasion Nation)

Then came the final straw that broke the back of me saying no to my gonads, which was I dreamed I was that black dude on MTV’s “Hot and Spicy Christmas” (around like Location Indicator 34412, if you want to check it out) and Carolyn was the oiled-up white chick, and we were trying to earn the Island Vacation by miming through the ten Hot ‘n’ Nasty Positions before the end of “We Three Kings,” only then, sadly, during Her on Top, Thumb in Mouth, the Elf Cap fell off, and as the Loser Buzzer sounded she bent low to me saying, Oh, Jon, I wish we did not have to do this for fake in front of hundreds of kids on Spring Break doing the wave but instead could do it for real with just each other in private.
And then she kissed me with a kiss I can only describe as melting.

This one’s so pretty and heartbreaking and funny and crazy. Saunders is the king of the company-man narrator. An excellent, rewarding reading experience. What else to say?

Read it here in a strangely horizontal format or here on some message board looking thing.

George Saunders, "My Flamboyant Grandson"

Grandpa’s racing to get his son to the theater, but he has his obligations to advertising to think about it.

(from In Persuasion Nation)

All around and above us were those towering walls of light, curving across building fronts, embedded in the sidewalks, custom-fitted to light poles: a cartoon lion eating a man in a suit; a rain of gold coins falling into the canoe of a naked rain-forest family; a woman in lingerie running a bottle of Pepsi between her breasts; the Merrill Lynch talking fist asking, “Are you kicking ass or kissing it?”; a perfect human rear, dancing; a fake flock of geese turning into a field of Bebe logos; a dying grandmother’s room filled with roses by a FedEx man who then holds up a card saying “No Charge.”

That’s a rather long excerpt, I know. “My Flamboyant Grandson” portends a ghastly future wherein every citizen is obligated to endure the advertising the corporations have created just for you. Now, the machine being satirized here is not the sort of stuff I’m currently worried about. It’s very Minority Report, very Reaganomics. But hey, it funny and pretty in its own way. And, while it doesn’t feel quite as relevant to this modern world as it could be, it hits its targets with with finesse and humor. Read an oddly horizontal version of it here.

George Saunders, "I CAN SPEAK!(tm)"

Dear consumer, please reconsider your decision to return the freaky talking mask designed to make your baby more interesting.

(from In Persuasion Nation)

So funny, weird, and screwed up. I’ll probably be saying that sort of thing a lot as I work my way through this collection.
I couldn’t find this story for you online, but in Googling the ICS2100 — the I Can Speak ™ model that more closely resembles your baby’s face — I did find this:
Eurologic’s Elantra iCS2100 allows users to take advantage of the availability and scalability offered by shared storage configurations as well as the low cost infrastructure of existing IP based Ethernet networks.
Whatever that is, I don’t recommend strapping it to a human face.