Posts tagged ‘George Saunders’

August 27, 2017

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

by Team Riverside

Hardback, Bloomsbury, £18.99, out now

Lincoln in Bardo.jpgIf you turn over George Saunders’ first full-length novel, you’ll be bombarded by so many quotes on the back cover from writing titans that it might lead you to believe that he’s the literary equivalent of the second coming of Christ. Jonathan Franzen says we’re lucky to have him, Zadie Smith asserts that we’ll read him “long after these times have passed”, Thomas Pynchon, Khaled Hosseini, Jennifer Egan, Junot Díaz, Lorrie Moore and more besides all sing his praises.

And the wonderful thing is, they ain’t wrong. Saunders is a singular voice, a writer whose celebrated short stories have combined Pythonesque whimsy, incomprehensible corporate/new age jargon, deep existential ennui and a strong ethical conscience to create a style that is instantly recognisable and wonderfully original. His works are uniquely his own, as funny as they are often heart-breaking – you will laugh, you will cry – and his debut novel is thankfully no different.

A bizarre story – Abraham Lincoln’s deceased eleven-year-old son Willie tries to navigate a transitional stage of the afterlife known as the Bardo over one night of ghostly weirdness – is complemented by an equally bizarre form; when Saunders isn’t leading the plot through playscript-like dialogues narrated from within the Bardo he’s employing an even more remarkable narrative convention, that of telling the tale of the surviving Abraham Lincoln by amalgamating passages from (fictional) history books. This creates a procession of voices mostly many-times removed from the events they clamour to describe. It sounds odd, is odd, but is as wrong-footing and unexpectedly affecting as anything he has written.

It’s not often you read a book that feels as deliciously, daringly new as this. And the fact that, like Saunders’ short stories, it somehow feels casual, unpretentious and effortless just shows the extent of this fascinating author’s talent.

Review by Tom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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December 7, 2013

Tenth of December: George Saunders

by Andre

Paperback now available – £8.99

George Saunders TENTH OF DECEMBERHoping to read Tenth of December by George Saunders in a handy paperback format on 10 December, 2013? Well, if you call at the Riverside you can indeed enjoy this moment of literary synchronicity; or at the very least get hold of this acclaimed collection before all your well-read friends. We’re happy to report that the publisher has supplied us with the paperback edition ahead of its official January 2014 release date. Given the half-dozen mentions for Tenth of December in the end-of-year newspaper round-ups, it means we can satisfy the many curious readers who’ll be seeking out George Saunders this month. The hardback has slipped out of print and a certain retailer, perhaps distracted by developing its drone technology, is still listing the Tenth of December paperback as being on sale on 2 January, 2014.

Frankly, you can’t wait until then for this book, which has cemented Saunders’s reputation as the finest American writer of short stories at work today. Saunders can be funny, surreal, bleak and humane on the same page. Take his 1998 story Sea Oak which features a male stripper who’s working in an aviation-themed restaurant, while also trying to deal with the reanimated corpse of his Aunt Bernie and her concerted efforts to restore the American Dream for her penurious family.

Saunders’s Royal Festival Hall event this summer ended up being a master class about one particular story he read from (Victory Lap, which opens the new collection) that had nascent authors in the audience scribbling away feverishly. George made it look easy, but it’s really not. As Zadie Smith puts it on the cover of the paperback edition – did we mention it’s already on our shelves? – of Tenth of December: “Not since Twain has America produced a satirist this funny with a prose style this fine.”