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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars George Saunders. He's like other writers. 'Cept different.
A lot of writers' names seem to be bandied about in connection with George Saunders: Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Pynchon, Raymond Carver. Let me add a couple of more old-world names to the mix: Nikolai Gogol and Franz Kafka. What Gogol was to the 19th century and Kafka to the 20th, I believe Saunders is to the 21st. In a hundred years' time, we'll probably all be calling...
Published on 24 Oct 2006 by Mr. D. N. Sumption

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not impressed.
I seem to be out of step with the other reviewers who loved this. It might be down to personal preference of style but I spent each story waiting a) for an interesting character; b) for something to happen. I read this on the train, so it killed a few minutes, but I wouldn't recommend it. I'm with the other reviewer who said that the stories feel like they are the output...
Published 12 months ago by Amazon Customer


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars George Saunders. He's like other writers. 'Cept different., 24 Oct 2006
By 
Mr. D. N. Sumption (Sheffield, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Pastoralia (Paperback)
A lot of writers' names seem to be bandied about in connection with George Saunders: Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Pynchon, Raymond Carver. Let me add a couple of more old-world names to the mix: Nikolai Gogol and Franz Kafka. What Gogol was to the 19th century and Kafka to the 20th, I believe Saunders is to the 21st. In a hundred years' time, we'll probably all be calling certain scenarios "Saundersesque". Except we'll probably be doing it in hushed voices, while the boss is over the other side of the office screaming down the phone.

Saunders has a lot in common with those two writers: all three write about a world recognisably similar to our own, and yet where certain rules seem to have been re-written. All are almost unbearably dark and yet almost unbearably funny. All three, by distorting recognised reality, reveal far more about the iniquities of life than they could ever do by writing "straight".

But Saunders' writing is very much in a modern idiom, his sentences are a joy to read, always deceptively simple yet revealingly deep. He has 21st-century corporate-speak down to a T, and he somehow manages to make it hilarious and legible despite its convolution.

More names that could perhaps be bandied about alongside Saunders: his writing is not a million miles away from Ricky Gervais's self-effacing satire in The Office and Extras, or Mitchell and Webb in Peep Show. But Saunders goes deeper, darker and stranger than any of these.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What the other guy said, 14 Mar 2006
This review is from: Pastoralia (Paperback)
Pastoralia is George Saunders's second collection of stories and, like CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, it deals with a parallel or future world, a service sector gone mad and has much black-hearted satire for our own days. I read it in one day (albeit a day confined to planes and trains) and it was an absolute pleasure from start to finish. Early Vonnegut is brought to mind with Saunders's packing-'em-in brevity (see the first page of "Sea Oak" or "Winky"). My favourite though was "The Barber's Unhappiness," which seems representative with its hopeless, loveless protagonist and its cool distance and occasional absurdity. Here he is having snatched a glimpse down the dress of a woman he's trying to work out whether he should be dropping his standards to pursue:
"Well she definitely had something going on in the chest category. So facially she was the prettiest in the room, plus she had decent boobs. Attractive breasts. The thing was, would she want him? He was old. Oldish. When he stood up too fast his knee joints popped. Lately his gums had started to bleed. Plus he had no toes. Although why sell himself short? He owned his own small business. He had a bit of a gut, yes, and his hair was somewhat thin, but then again his shoulders and chest were broad, so that the overall effect, even with the gut, was of power, which girls liked, and at least his head was properly sized for his body, which was more than she could say, although then again he still lived with his mother."
Ultimately though the fun Saunders has with his characters never descends into Waughish cruelty, and - by and large - gives them hope at the end of the trek through their story, if not success. Pastoralia is an essential collection of modern short stories.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Second collection of stories from a successor to Vonnegut and Heller, 27 Jan 2013
By 
Paul Bowes (Wales, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Pastoralia (Paperback)
'Pastoralia' is the second collection of short stories from George Saunders. It appeared in 2000, and collects six stories, varying in length from ten to nearly seventy pages, all of which originally appeared in 'The New Yorker' magazine between 1996 and 2000. Although the stories have been arranged with the long title story first, there seems to be no compelling reason to read them in this order: and in fact the shortest story, 'The End of FIRPO in the World', gives a very good idea of Saunders' strengths and characteristic manner.

Saunders came to attention with his initial collection, 'CivilWarLand in Bad Decline' (1996), which won the author reasonable comparisons with Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut, and rather more strained comparisons with Thomas Pynchon and Samuel Beckett. 'Pastoralia' is very much a continuation of that first collection, and for the reader completely new to Saunders the earlier book is the more obvious place to start.

Nonetheless, 'Pastoralia' is well worth reading in its own right. Saunders writes about ordinary people in a way that brings out the sheer weirdness and existential flimsiness of modern life. His characters tend to be marginal people, defeated by life, seemingly trapped in toxic relationships or sidelined by age - children, old people, the poor, the physically unattractive and mentally precarious - engaged in forms of work that offer little satisfaction and are intrinsically insecure, battling with deadening forms of language and the agendas of others, but still hopeful. They have vivid, even violent imaginative lives, and Saunders, whose ear for internal monologue and personal dialect is exceptional, extracts great comedy from the contrast between the facts of their lives and their compensatory understandings of them.

It's the humour and the author's knack for disclosing hidden emotional depths beneath the comedy that makes these stories worthwhile, taking them beyond the limits of the stereotypical 'New Yorker story' - funny, clever, complacent, slight - into the realm of the more serious. Saunders isn't Beckett or Kafka, at least not at this point: but the comparisons with Heller and Vonnegut, and with Donald Barthelme - another 'New Yorker' favourite - all of whom pushed realism to the borders of surrealism in the name of satire, are not unreasonable.

I recommend 'Pastoralia' to anybody who enjoys humorous fiction with some bite. Including 'CivilWarLand', there are three other collections of Saunders' short stories in print, so if you enjoy this there is plenty more in the same vein to explore.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh my, the guy can write., 14 Dec 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Pastoralia (Paperback)
George Saunders writes much much better short stories than me. He writes much better short stories than everybody i know. Even Carver, if he were alive, would be looking over his shoulder, kind of nervous, rubbing his own ear. I don't know who this Saunders fellow thinks he is, writing these freaking good stories and then acting all insouciant about it, like it's no big deal. He speaks of a new moral tone in funny writing and cites Foster Wallace, Dave E and the rest as influences, but his voice is all his own - no-one else could have written the novella/longish short story that is Pastoralia, or fit so much heart into the surreal. Plus! He eschews footnotes. And we like a man who eschews those.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not impressed., 1 Sep 2013
By 
Amazon Customer (London, England.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Pastoralia (Kindle Edition)
I seem to be out of step with the other reviewers who loved this. It might be down to personal preference of style but I spent each story waiting a) for an interesting character; b) for something to happen. I read this on the train, so it killed a few minutes, but I wouldn't recommend it. I'm with the other reviewer who said that the stories feel like they are the output of a creative writing class. The stories reminded me of those "arty" type films where the director is trying to hard to say something interesting about the human condition but ends up being boring.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful unique voice, 2 Jan 2012
This review is from: Pastoralia (Paperback)
George Saunders is a wonderful writer. These stories are funny, sad and moving, and his writing style, with dialogue particularly, is pure joy.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Pastoralia, 17 May 2013
By 
Matthew Critchlow (Paris, France) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Pastoralia (Paperback)
I'm not widely read, nor a literary scholar so perhaps not best positioned to judge, but ...
This is the first stuff by him that I have read (recommended to me by a friend), I had reservations from reading the reviews but I did enjoy it, finished the lot very quickly.
Overall the stories seemed to me like an exaggerated Douglas Coupland, in a good way.
Dysfunction, social comment and the contradictions of the 'human condition' cranked up, hammed up, and presented for our entertainment.
I was highly entertained and didn't find it as pretentious as the reviews made it sound.
Will be buying another title by him
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4.0 out of 5 stars Strange but good, 26 Jun 2011
This review is from: Pastoralia (Paperback)
It is an easy and entertaining book, that is easily read in a weekend. But the novels stay with you for a long time. They are disturbing and dark, and give you an sense of despair that stay with you.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointment, 1 May 2013
By 
Nikolaos Oikonomidis (Thessaloniki Greece) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Pastoralia (Paperback)
A disappointing book;read it without much interest;forget it already.The kind of writing one gets when coming out of creative writing lessons.Stories that are supposed to be new and clever but lack the underlying passion that could give them real life.Looks like the work of someone who tries hard to make a living out of writing.Sorry!Hope for something better in the future(novel if you please;that would ask for a fairer judjement).
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4.0 out of 5 stars Thank you, 6 Aug 2014
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This review is from: Pastoralia (Kindle Edition)
Interesting book
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Pastoralia
Pastoralia by George Saunders (Paperback - 3 Sep 2001)
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