CivilWarLand in Bad Decline (EPUB)

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Bon Bon Voyage fAn do something doesn t make it right Just because you have the power over another life you should not kill it smite it ridicule it enslave it or abuse it in any way Laws or social acceptance may be in youravor but it still isn t right and makes you a monster We must be good to one another in order or the world to lourishThis collection is a joy to read It is witty downright hilarious at times while uncomfortable at others and presents a really positive message despite dragging the reader through a world of muck to get there I really hope Saunders continues writing or a long time to come and goes down as one of the great literary satirists The writing is crisp and carries a strong orward momentum and Saunders comes euipped with enough techniues such as his slight changes in dialogue presentation and his character s lexicon to disguise that each character all of them told in irst person have a very similar cadence and voice While it has a ew rough patches the collection still manages to soar with its comedy and dark visions455 Seeing someone do something that s not patently selfish and A Look Over My Shoulder: A Life in the Central Intelligence Agency fucked up is like a breath ofresh air good clean resh air not that any one of us would know good clean resh air is a vial of it swooped down and bit us on the ass Slavery is not the only idea dredged up Saunders use of economical collapse sets each story in a world where it isn t all that surprising that people would bond together against what they Ravishing Ruby fear In High School we all had to examine how ordinary people could commit terrible atrocities such as the Nazis and the holocaust etc I apologizeor the Reductio ad Hitlerum here but it is necessary allowing economic pressure and mob mentality to rationalize and assuage any moral ualms against even the most despicable of actions In Bounty it is a similar circumstance that allows people to view the Flawed as less than human and to not bat an eye at the Flawed s horrific mistreatment Welcome to the OccupationThe whole way through George Saunders irst collection of short stories there are suggestions that the world is not as it should beImagine a world like this totally unlike our ownThe characters and narrators are or are surrounded by kooks and wackos People have names like Shirleen and Melvin Where there were once cornfields and lood plains there are now parking stations and theme parks Gangs invade civil war re enactments All dreams are defiled All entertainment is simulated Muzak reigns All other music is lip synched All consumer items are ake or synthetic All advertising is misleading All lavouring is artificial Outside homes are suspended signs saying Homogeneity Sweet Homogeneity A Randian Bountytown welcomes you with the greeting Where merit is king and so are you Success in the community means you ve been inducted into Rotary God is unfair and preferentially punishes his weak his dumb his Old Yeller fat his lazy Designer verisimilitude is de rigueur Memories are shmemories Errantathers are passive Flying by the Seat of My Pants: Flight Attendant Adventures on a Wing and a Prayer flakes miluetoasts and yes men who leave theiramilies behind and marry Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography floozies Even Dear John letters areorged People are either Normal or Flawed special or mutant possessed or dispossessed There is no longer any innocence only guilt Sincerity is a thing of the past Authenticity has disappeared into thin air and survives only as a ghost or a rumour My Torn and Black Heart RebelsSaunders narrators believe they have to do something about it the world needs to be rectified Having lost what was to be lost my torn and black heart rebelsenough already enough this is as low as I goUnderstandably they have to start at the bottom Learn to enjoy what little you have Revel in the On Being Human: Reflections on Life and Living fact that your dignity hasn t yet been stripped awayFor all the satirical intent and comic effect these stories of rebellion have a heart of gold They live and breathe pure empathy Everyone you ve ever loved you ve treated like goldThe door of happiness swings openor the selfless I look after her and she sueals with delight when I come home and the sum total of sadness in the world is less than it would have beenThis is the real thingGeorge Saunders and Mark TwainSOUNDTRACKview spoilerThe Chills The Male Monster Frommers Irreverent Guide to Walt Disney World from the Id Welcome to the OccupationSugar cane and coffee cupCopper steel and cattleAn annotated historyTheorest or the ireWhere we open up the loodgatesFreedom reigns supremeFire on the hemisphere belowGenevi ve Toupin Heart of Gold Neil Young Morris The Real Thing Chills Part Past Part Fiction Brother Million Dollar Bill Brother Million Dollar Bill KXT 917 and ArtSeek Present On the Road Star Fade Into You Live on Late Night with Conan O Brien Day I ll Keep It with Mine Bob Dylan Hoffs and Matthew Sweet A Different Drum Taste the Ceiling Live at Pitchfork Music Festival Chicago on July 17 2015 hide spoiler The past couple of months two activities have dominated my leisure time reading and watching NBA hoops After reading CivilWarLand in Bad Decline I was reminded of time reading and watching NBA hoops After reading CivilWarLand in Bad Decline I was reminded of hoops argument that I think should carry over to modern literature as well The argument has to deal with the unceasing uest or the so called next Michael Jordan Michael Jordan was the transcendent athlete if not public Who's There on Halloween? figure of my childhood There are a generation of kids who still drink Gatorade buy Nikes and wear Hanes solely because at some point in their childhood they wanted to be like Mike Whenever I play a pickup game or even just shoot around Iind my tongue subconsciously Hanging Out Of My Mouth out of my mouth I drive to the basket What separates Jordan Jurisdiction from similarigures is he actually Justified This Adulation Watching Jordan Was Watching this adulation Watching Jordan was watching real life olk hero I remember my Dad who isn t an NBA Mookie: Life, Baseball, and the '86 Mets fan during the MLB strike of 1994 ranting about how all professional athletes are overpaid then pausing and adding with the exception of Michael Jordan This is a guy who averaged a couple grand a minute during the late 90s The Flu Game The Shrug Game The Blindfolded Dunk Theinal shot of the 1998 Finals No other athlete since Babe Ruth has been able to summon similar myth making moments Yet as soon as he retired or the second time the media and basketball ans have become obsessed with Clawback finding the Next Jordan Around a dozen guys have been nominated as candidates and while these guys are all extremely talented it s doing them a disservice to compare them to Jordan Jordan is Gretzky Young Sandy Koufax Mohammed Ali before the draft and The Beatles combined a truly once in a lifetime talent I ve started to notice a similar thing going on in literature concerning David Foster Wallace More and it seems the DFW comparisons are used talking about contemporary authors For Christmas I received two books explicitly name checked Wallace on the back cover This really doesn t bother me and I don t think it causes the reader or the publishing industry any harm When I think about it there s nothing like a good DFW comparison to get me interested in a newly published book But at the same time I worry a little bit about it The problem with the next Jordan controversy is that while Vince Carter has or aptly once had the capacityor in air improvisation that Jordan had Dwyane Wade has the ability to put a team on his shoulders and almost single handedly win playoff series and Kobe has the clutch instincts and competitive intensity Jordan had none of these guys are on MJ s level While these guys and others I haven t mentioned are very good to extraordinarily good at individual aucets of the game of basketball Jordan was the best at everything you can ask a shooting guard to be good atI wouldn t go so ar as to completely euate the respective greatness of MJ and DFW but there is an analogy here Because let s Sugar in the Raw: Voices of Young Black Girls in America face it anybody who reads an author expecting a David Foster Wallace doppelg nger is probably going to be disappointed as those who expected Harold Miner to be the next Michael JordanNow that that s said while this argument came to me while I was reading CivilWarLand in Bad Decline I m not sure this review is the best place to expound upon it For starters George Saunders writing style and story telling are bothundamentally different Cooking for Company from DFW s If you were to make a Venn Diagram of George Saunders and DFW the overlapping segments of the circles would be a mere sliver at least based on this book Inact I wouldn t be shocked if Saunders never read any Wallace before he wrote any of these stories There are certain traits that Saunders and Wallace share Both are able to write about a world that is Empire of Sin fundamentally differentrom ours in very profound ways but at the same make the reader Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China feel some sense of almost eerieamiliarity Be it descriptions of wheelchair bound uebecois assassins who were disabled in a bizarre rail jumping ritual or an account of an employee at a Civil War Era theme park seeking advice My Wife's Affair from the ghosts of an actual Civil War eraamily both writers have an uncanny ability to treat the other worldly in a causal manner They both have incredible imaginations but are able to resist what must be an overwhelming urge to let the otherness of their narratives overly dominate the storytelling I Chicken, Chicken, Duck! feel like I m doing people a disservice when I tell them what the plot of Infinite Jest is about While the world Wallace constructs is unbelievably intriguing that s not what the book is about If you go into the book expecting to learn about The Entertainment andind out what s wrong with Hal To disarray and civilization dissolves into surreal chaos These wacky brilliant hilarious and entirely original stories cue us in on George Saunders' skewed vis. Ou re going to be somewhat disappointed I Inspirations feel similarly about the stories here While the settings might suggest genreiction Saunders writing reminded me of Raymond Carver than Philip K Dick or DFW My one uibble may be is that while Saunders is definitely a uniue storyteller and I enjoyed all of the stories there is nothing that really resonated with me or kept me up thinking at night Beyond the polish of the background I m not sure exactly how much is new there I haven t come close to reading the complete DFW bibliography or Saunders but it still pisses me off to no end that one day that wells going to run prematurely dry Because just as there was nothing like watching Jordan in his prime there is nothing out there uite like reading David Foster Wallace What makes experiencing greatness so extraordinary is the uniueness inherent in it s nature Like I said I m not sure how ar anybody has ever gone with the Wallace comparisons to Saunders so I m not sure if any of this applies And there s nothing wrong with comparing recent experiences with ondly recalled past experiences But I worry that holding something to the level of past greatness be it MJ DFW The Beatles Brando Scorsese etc does a diservices to both the new experience by holding it up to a standard that is impossible to reach without some glimmer of nostalgia and the old experience by causing us to Move Over, Victoria--I Know the Real Secret: Surrendering the Lies That Bind You to the God Who Frees You forget how uniue theirst was Have you ever heard a politically incorrect joke and laughed and then Slo Mo! felt guilty but then laughed againHave you ever driven by a car wreck and slowed down to see the emergency response vehicles and the vehicle made to look like a damaged accordionHave you ever watched a reality TV show and sawolks Poor Mrs. Rigsby fighting each other and tearing clothes and being separated by bouncers and realized you were hypnotized by the gross lowest common denominator humanityHave you read Civilwarland in Bad Decline by George SaundersTwisted Degenerate Profligate Absolutely and unconditionally brilliantI loved it and am seeking counselingIf Kurt Vonnegut had a redheaded stepchild that illegitimate heir to the black comedic satirical throne may be George Saunders Civilwarland in Bad Decline his 1996 collection of short stories and one novella is Vonnegutesue in the sense that Saunders pokes relentlessun at our society and culture accepts Louis CK like the abashed groans and then plunges ahead with of his acerbic vitriolic and wickedly Pirates, Ships, and Sailors funny as hell slam dunk on our society But that really doesn tit either a slam dunk is too pedestrian and neutral of a reference Saunders takes our capitalistic Judeo Christian western civilization morals and ethics and delivers an MMA beat down that would make uinton Rampage Jackson winceVonnegut Charles Bukowski William Burroughs and Harry Crews in a literary tag team no holds barred grudge matchHis characters wheeze and moan with pathetic life and piss themselves There is casual negligent murder ollowed by halfhearted suburban banal regret Saunders describes lagrant unapologetic infidelity both literally and metaphorically His is not just the gutter but a glittery and neon bright cesspool meandering into a dog bowlSaunders demonstrates his skill with the unreliable narrator the same way Picasso did with the color blue If he were a harmful drug he would not be heroin but rather a ball peen hammer and a shot of El Torro teuila Use with moderationTake the eponymous story War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History: 1500 to Today for example Civilwarland in Bad Decline An absurd parody of a theme park sufferinginancial setbacks amidst roving teenage vandals There are ghosts of Civil War era people haunting the grounds of the A Boy in Winter fake interactive museum Then there is a mentally disturbed war veteran in theake theme park haunted by Frost at Midnight formerly real live civil war veteransSeveral short stories and a novella and the theme and tone of the collection coalesces into the novella Bounty a caustic satire of Americana gone all wrongAnd so it goes Using lavish grotesue and generously mocking political correctness and hypocrisy George Saunders thrashes everyday life to pitiful trash reducing the States to the ridiculous dystopia of dark agesThat night I sleep a troubled sleep beside aetid stream I dream of Limbo a tiny room Princess Baby, Night-Night full of dull people eternally discussing their dental work while sipping lukewarm tea I wake atirst light and hike through miles of The Pentagon Papers: Making History at the Washington Post failingorest and around noon arrive in a village of paranoiacs standing with rifles in the doorways of Improbable Destinies: Fate, Chance, and the Future of Evolution flapper era homes It s a nice town No signs of plunder or panic The McDonald s has been occupied by the radical Church of Appropriate Humility Everyone calls them Guilters The ultimate Guilter ritual is when one of them goes into arenzy and thrusts his or her hand into a deep ryer A mangled hand is a badge of honor All the elders have two and need to be helped on and off with their coatsEconomics politics ecology morals and culture degraded dramatically but at the same time vulgarity progressed incongruouslyThe day IT HAPPENED AN ATTRACTIVE ALL GIRL happened an attractive all girl club was lying around on the concrete in Kawabunga Kove in Day Glo suits looking or all the world like a bunch of blooms The president and sergeant at arms were standing with brown ankles in the shallow avorably comparing my Attraction to real surf To increase my appeal I had the sea chanteys blaring I was operating at the prescribed wave reuency setting but in my lust or the glee club had the magnitude peggedBread and circuses entertainment is the basis of civilization Whatever happens show must go on and the citizens must be entertained Me at 18 I read Vonnegut I read Tom Robbins I read Mark Leyner I read Douglas Adams I had just left the nest in a small Oklahoma town I knew hardship I knew the void of culture that threatens to suck you in like a black hole I knew the vapid anguish that takes center stage in Saunders stories Humor was therapy then the absurd a close riend We scoffed at the religious majority and their Nini follies pokedun at the consumerist drone of daily existence Then came anger and resentment But now now a uiet concern and disappointment that the world is truly this disturbing that it wasn t just a cruel joke and that lessons are painfully slow to be learned by our obstinate populationAnd then there is George Saunders always good I Love My Dad (Disney Princess) for a laugh And such high ratings Such acclaim and I see his consistent voice of contempt and clever constructions of a world not unlike ours but just a bitocused on the details of its unpleasant and ludicrous sides George Saunders the new voice of satire a genre that has always served a unction since the classical Greeks and later Swift The only problem or me is that I suppose I don t like satire any not in large doses anyway I can only stomach so much irony only handle doses anyway I can only stomach so much irony only handle many exaggerations into hilarity that the hilarity becomes irritating after a while Am I too serious Probably Do I want a didactic serious approach to critiuing our society Well no I don t always need to be told through iction that the world is horrible I know that I want human stories human realism I suppose the problem isn t Saunders writing it s that I ve outgrown arce Vonnegut s absurd world just doesn t do it or me any ADDENDUM I LIKE SATIRE AND SAUNDERS MORE NOW NOVEMBER 2015 So this is where it all began or George Saunders In the wonderful preface which can be read in Camp Rex full here he reveals that he wrote these stories over the course of seven years while working a monotonous office job Once he had compiled the tedious technical reports at his desk he spent every spare minute working on this collection hiding itrom his boss Sidenote This sounds very amiliar to me I work in a similarly unstimulating role and tend to spend much of it daydreaming about books But hey it pays the bills With a young amily relying on him at home it can t have been easy to juggle everything but his persistence eventually paid off and he became the much acclaimed author he is todayThough Saunders looks back on this period Touch of Enchantment fondly the stories are uite dark Unhappy ghosts and monstrous theme parks hisavourite subjects When Dads Don't Grow Up feature prominently Bounty the novella which ends the collection is a nightmarish vision ofuture America where the Flawed people with genetic abnormalities are orced to work in recreations to entertain the wealthy Normals In The 400 Pound CEO the protagonist is obese man bullied by his office colleagues whose company rids homes of racoon infestations and claims to release them into the wild when in act they burn the animals and dump them in a pit Isabelle is the one uplifting tale in the book In an angry town Pee Wee Scouts treasury (Pee Wee Scouts, fuelled by racial hatred the lonely narrator takes pity on a severely disabled neighbour and gives her a place to stay Now we re pals Family It s not perfect Sometimes it s damn hard But I look after her and she sueals with delight when I come home and the sum total of sadness in the world is less than it would have beenIf I have one small criticism it s that the stories are all uite similar in tone and theme But you can see Saunders honing his craft and these tales are imbued with the sharp satirical humour and skewed take on modern culture that he is nowamous or His ability to highlight the absurdities of world we live in allows us to realise how ridiculous much of it really is and encourages us to consider what really matters most He is a true genius and we are lucky to have him. Ion of the legacy Americans are creating Against the backdrop of American devolvement America's own worst tendencies and greatest virtues are weirdly illuminate. CivilWarLand in Bad DeclineMan this little guyI can t ault it a single sentence Every story in this tiny collection made me want to high ive the author with one hand and cradle my hanging head in the other Maybe I was a bit hard on his later Pastoralia because I needed to warm up to Saunders maybe my head was just in the right space this time around or perhaps this really is the superior group of stories Whatever magical trippydippy cosmos aligning parade of ck yeah was going on I dug the expletive deleted outta this thing To start the New Year off in tune with my hangover bluuuuues I couldn t have asked High Heat for a appropriate tone than Saunders bomb crater soul with somehow but barely still beating heart nihilistic we re all screwed so let s laughness Then again I m in one of those moods where I would kindaancy taking a slingshot and a pocket ull of acorns into a public suare and iring at random You may think he needs to lighten up I have a sense that God is unfair and pre I already knew liked the title track so I skipped to the big novella Bounty and thought hello hello this is like a Motown ollow up where say Reach Out I ll be There was ollowed up by Standing in the Shadows of Love which is like the same song tweaked a bit but still great or I Can t Help Myself ollowed up by It s the Same Old Song which really is how daringly blatant they were I thought this was a short story collection but it s like a rock opera where the stories inhabit the same world you know like Tommy so I shoulda read the blurb Set in a dystopian near uture in which America has become little than a theme park in terminal disrepairWell sugar pie honey George it s the same old joke Alright because George is uite brilliant it s a A treatise on the law of marital rights in Texas firework display of many similar jokes But anyways not a patch on Tenth of December George s latest collection which got the P Bryant Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval presented in a short but tas Poor George Saunders must have had a real real bad theme park experience in his youth This collection of stories makes the dystopia of Zombieland seem sedate I love Saunders take on American consumption and the way he is able to shove values and virtues of 20th century America into aunky uture that makes all our virtues absurd and makes this anti utopia seem closer than you might have previously imagined What a degraded cosmos We live in a world where cruelty towards others is becoming and accepted how easy we rationalize our self righteous anger against someone who cut us off brought us an undercooked meal said something stupid etc and even seen as unny Saunders like the ghost of Christmas Lots of Hearts future would like to show us where that is leading us Civilwarland In Bad Decline hisirst collection of stories paints a grim portrait of a near uture illed with everything Why Diets Make Us Fat: The Unintended Consequences of Our Obsession with Weight Loss from economic collapse murderous CEO s moral degradation on a mass scale and a world dominated or enslaved by the rich callous and self absorbed His satire which manages to extract a comediclair Don't Hex with Texas from all theoreboding gloom cuts to the core of our morality Saunders presents us with the inner thoughts of the poor and the meek the dregs of a uture society not that unlike our own as he cautions us against our mistreatment of others and the self important beliefs that drive us to sidestep our moralityGeorge Saunders thinks we are all assholes and he is probably right While we eel safety in our knowledge that each story is removed Black Women Writers (1950-1980): A Critical Evaluation from our own reality the creeping dread at seeing our own world our actions or those of people we know elevated to such apocalyptic proportions isrightening In nearly every story the economy has driven us to a state where the wealthy dominate and all others are mere chattel disposable employees who suffer horrific treatment just to scrape by We see people pushed through degrading drudgery just to survive dehumanized enslaved and laughed at and we see those who have risen above it only looking down with mirthful scorn Each person is just a pawn in everyone else s game It is this self centered view that led the world to such a predicament Dad said she should try to understand that other people even ignorant people even poor people loved their children every bit as much as she loved hers Tell me something I don t know she said The point is I don t love their kids as much as I love mine Immanuel Kant s Pajama Party first Categorical Imperative states that Act only on the maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law Through his stories Saunders argues that if we all look out onlyor ourselves if we all ignore the needs of others then we are doomed to this degradation of moral ethical and economic standards The 400lb CEO is a ripe example of our cruelty towards others as the reader witnesses the inner turmoil of A Good Man Albeit An Obese Man good man albeit an obese man he clings to his morality while beleaguered by insults and jokes at his weight his coworkers openly mock him to his Bunco Babes Tell All face with no thought to how it might affect him This instills a tragic belief that perfectly captures the essence of Saunders message I have a sense that God is unfair and preferentially punishes his weak his dumb hisat his lazy I believe he takes pleasure in his perfect creatures and cheers them on like a brainless dad as they run roughshod over the rest of us He gives us a desire to be liked and personal attributes that make us utterly unlikable Having placed his Every Day by the Sun: A Memoir of the Faulkners of Mississippi flawed and needy children in a world of exacting specifications he deducts the difference between what we have and what we needrom our hearts and our self esteem and our mental health There is no end to the rationalizations made to gloss over the difficult truths of moral depravity Much like the darkly comedic works of Flannery O Connor Saunders depicts obdurate morally corrupt characters who cling to their religion What terrible atrocities we can commit with God on our side Money is another scapegoat as in the title story where even murder seems less repugnant than bankruptcy and lowly employees are pressured into terrible situations in order to Bringing the Outside In feed theiramilies There is no arguing against those in power and exposing their depravity or ighting against it can only lead one to being suashed by the corporate gears as in exposing their depravity or ighting against it can only lead one to being suashed by the corporate gears as in Mary Some people truly are above the laws It is the wicked that rule the world and the good that are haunted by the ghosts of the slaughter Those with a good moral compass always get crushed in his worlds and often they are ridiculed or hated because of their honest and good beliefs The ability to eel to empathize to pity open one up to the cold hateful aim of those whose hearts are so calloused and buried in ilth and self righteousness that they can t care Close to Hugh for anyone asiderom themselvesSaunders wants us to treat each other with respect to keep an open mind and open heart In his violent visions we see the results of our acceptance of picking on the nerds the physically less ortunate the weak and the dumb In the wonderful and wonderfully terrifying novella Bounty those with any deformity the Flawed are enslaved and dehumanized While Saunders uses the parallels of pre Civil War American slavery to lesh out the novella as well as using racism to uel the plot of the Ralph Ellison esk flesh out the novella as well as using racism to uel the plot of the Ralph Ellison esk the effect is than just putting a new spin on a traditional literary examination Saunders re examines the past to portend the Charity future and extends the horrors encompass us all instead of stopping at boundaries of race creed or gender The world damns the Flawed yet as pointed out by an elderly Flawed there s not a person on this earth who s not Flawed in one way or another While we may excel in one area we all have our deficiencies even if they are not visibleIn each story the world is headed in a terrible direction that isor the most part seen as irreversible Saunders is looking to us those in the present to course correct in order to avoid such a grim uture His utures however aren t that dissimilar Catch and Release: Trout Fishing and the Meaning of Life from our present In nearly every story which is a bit of a point of contentionor me the narrator works in a theme park like resort where wealthy patrons can experience a simulated pure natural world often one of times past While this is itting with a world where everything is collapsing polluted and destroyed it isn t much different rom our present as we escape the world around us Road Map to Holland: How I Found My Way Through My Son's First Two Years with Down Syndrome for virtual worlds We live through our online selves we escape our world to other worlds such as seeking solace in times past through video games and movies These terrible bosses and evil corporate empires are all around us and the mistreatment andear mongering that keeps workers in line happens each and every day Having just escaped a actory where it is clear that employees are not people a place where nobody is concerned that the employees move about in thick clouds of aluminum dust or use cancerous chemicals without masks or ventilation a place where employees work 60 80hr weeks and have no say in anything no rights hope of raises are dismissed at a whim ridiculed a place that is perfectly legal and accepted by society yet maddening and deadly to work in this is the sort of place that Saunders satirizes without having to jump too ar I apologize or this aside I don t intend it as any woe is me but to share the eye opening experience I had of how places like in The Jungle still exist today As in Cormac McCarthy Saunders shows how just because you This is an alternate cover edition or ISBN 1573225797Funny sad bleak weird toxic the uture of America as the Free Market runs rampant the environment skids in. ,