Saturday, June 25, 2011

Short Story Saturday: Home by George Saunders

Welcome to the first installment of Short Story Saturday, a new semi-regular feature. The project stems from a desire to read more short stories. It's not a secret I prefer novels to short stories, but I'm working to stretch myself as a reader, and part of that will be reading more short stories. When I have read short story collections, I've often found them hard to review as a whole. This feature will allow me to review collections as a whole or separately, but I'll also be reviewing individual stories from a variety of sources. First up: "Home" by George Saunders, which appeared in the 2011 Summer Fiction issue of The New Yorker.

The backstory: When I went to see Karen Russell and Julie Orringer earlier this year, I asked them about who and what they were reading and how their reading habits differed while writing. Both mentioned George Saunders as a perennial source of information. I've never read Saunders (largely because he doesn't write novels, which I am most prone to read.) I mostly forgot about it until The New Yorker Summer Fiction issue I arrived. I was thrilled to see a George Saunders story in it.

My thoughts: There's a disorientation to this story I appreciate more in retrospect than I did initially. The reader is dumped right into the action. The story is predominantly conversational. All the action comes in dialogue. The reader doesn't have background or exposition and must use the conversational clues to make sense of the action and relationships between the characters. Initially, I was struck how play-like the story was. I pictured the events and conversations happening on a stage.

I appreciated the social commentary. It was restrained yet forceful. The characters were well-imagined. Technically, it was impressive, so I understand why writers like Saunders. Did I love it? No. I liked it. I respect it. It didn't inspire me to read an entire collection, but I'm glad to have a glimpse of George Saunders as a short story writer, and I am curious to read more of his stories.

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Source: The New Yorker, June 13, 2011 (I subscribe)

Now tell me: do you like George Saunders? What should I explore next?

2 comments:

  1. CivilWarLand in Bad Decline is his best collection, a masterpiece in my opinion. Pastoralia is also excellent.

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  2. I remember reading Pastoralia a long time ago when I was also trying to get into short stories, and I thought it was rather good. I think I may have also read Home, but can't be sure, as the stories in that collection have mostly faded from my mind. I am glad that you found this one to be interesting. I'd actually like to read more Saunders at some point. Great review!

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!