Bizarre, Clever, and Dark
Holy Weird, Batman. My colleague chose this collection of short stories for book club, and it's rather unique! I've never read George Saunders before, but it seems he has a twisted, complex world view. His characters are not likable at all, and I felt frustrated trying to figure out what was happening in some of his kooky stories.
One of my favorite stories was Escape from Spiderhead
--a lab where prisoners were subjected to injections of various chemicals to test their scientific effectiveness. Verbaluce makes you eloquent, Vivistif is a version of Viagra (ha ha), Darkenfloxx makes you feel so horribly depressed that you want to kill yourself, and an unnamed chemical makes you horny. It was creative world-building with despicable characters.
, a manager writes a letter to his employees performing some ghastly duty (are they working at a morgue?). The parody of psychobabble cracked me up:If we spend the hour before the shelf-cleaning talking down the process of cleaning the shelf, complaining about it, dreading it, investigating the moral niceties of cleaning the shelf, whatever, then what happens is, we make the process of cleaning the shelf MORE DIFFICULT THAN IT REALLY IS. We all know very well that that "shelf" is going to be cleaned, given the current climate, either by you or by the guy who replaces you and gets your paycheck, so the question boils down to: Do I want to clean it happy or do I want to clean it sad? Which would be more effective?
But most of the stories left me confused, frustrated, or icked out. Did I really need to take that stuff in my consciousness?
The colleague who chose this has very different reading tastes than me, and I bet he loved it. If you enjoy creative, dark literary short stories, you may love this! I tend to enjoy romance novels and this wasn't for me.