Wednesday, October 26, 2005

New Saunders 

Anyone read George Saunders' short story "In Persuasion Nation" (the title story in his new forthcoming collection) in Harper's?

He's definitely taken his art in a new direction: from stories about dehumanized people whose lives increasingly resemble TV commercials (or the weird embodiment of some anonymous corporate fantasy) to stories about people who actually exist within TV commercials--or more precisely, in eternally-recurring spatio-temporal units known as the "vignettes."

Saunders has also become increasingly didactic, advancing a thesis that advertising culture, having achieved nearly total control of our consciousnesses, has not only destroyed the sacred and the real but inflicts actual graphic violence upon its victims. These victims are trapped in cycles of endless regressive violence enacted upon (and received from) other victims. Such cycles, Saunders contends, always serve the ends of the advertisers.

Certainly Saunders means for these newer fictions (even more so than his past stories) to serve as works of criticism. I wonder how far such fiction can go without the supplementary context of explicit, argumentative criticism to discuss the issues it raises?

If nothing else, his mastery of a single form--the concise tragicomic parody of TV shows and advertisements--is sufficient to ensure his place the contemporary canon.


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