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George Saunders. He's like other writers. 'Cept different.,
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.