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Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George…

Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel (original 2017; edition 2017)

by George Saunders (Author)

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Title:Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel
Authors:George Saunders (Author)
Info:Random House (2017), Edition: First Edition, 368 pages
Collections:Your library, Notables

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Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (2017)

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    The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis (Anonymous user)

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hard to describe this book. pretty brilliantly crafted. very inventive. very fun journey. yet bizarre. ( )
  mfabriz | Jun 26, 2017 |
This book reminds me of a handful of others for its originality. I did find it a little confusing at times, not quite knowing when Saunders was quoting a historical source and when he was inventing one. I can’t really understand why Saunders mixed the two as it just reinforces for me how impossible it is to work out a response to Lincoln. It seems to me that Abraham Lincoln must be very prominent in the minds of Americans and I suspect that draws them more to the book and perhaps Americans are more aware of what were real citations and which were not, and could respond with more ability to judge what Saunders gives as the reasons for Lincoln’s state of mind in the Civil War.

Not having an interest in Lincoln myself meant perhaps diminished enjoyment of the book, but more so because of the bardo aspect of it. This inbetween Tibetan notion where dead people wait to be born again seemed more like some negative purgatorial experience to me, all the ‘souls’ there in a high state of unrest, resisting moving on. What connection does this Tibetan notion have to do with America? And it doesn’t seem as if they’re about to be born again. Judging from Everly Thomas says, the next step is judgement and then heaven or hell – as they are traditionally portrayed in Christianity. Why is Saunders mixing the two?

While Saunders vividly gives a sense of how uncomfortable it is for these beings in this transitional state, I didn’t find the negativity that lightened by what is probably meant to be humour – Bevins’ numerous eyes, hands and noses for example although I did like the way, when he was excited, these were ‘velocity-steaming behind him’. And while Vollman’s ‘tremendous member’ is there to remind us of his imminent consummation of his marriage, cancelled by his death, in itself it doesn’t provide much slapstick comedy although once again I liked the way he had to bear it in his hands ‘so as not to trip himself on it’ when, like Bevins, he was excited at influencing Lincoln’s mind.

How much relevance this book has to us today I’m not sure. It addresses the issue of black slavery and looks at all sorts of conceits which have landed these beings in this bardo - and by and large they are an unsavoury lot which is probably why they hestitate about the next step. I didn’t find myself with any insights, though, and feel Saunders’ main achievement in this novel is his style – though without a theme to connect to the readers, style in itself is like a stylish car without fuel. Still, maybe this book gets the reader reflecting on how to live one’s life. ( )
  evening | Jun 25, 2017 |
This was an oddly compelling read for me, much different than my usual. I was curious about the title, wondering what Bardo meant and came across this article which answers that question and discusses the book very well https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/08/lincoln-in-the-bardo-george-saunders-review ( )
  shaunesay | Jun 21, 2017 |
This is one of those books that sits with you and that you find yourself mulling over and discussing with other people. Your first instinct is to either love it or hate it, but as you keep talking about it, you realize that this is a really good book. And it would have made one hell of a Twilight Zone episode.

The story is set in Washington DC. President Lincoln had a son, Willie, who died of Scarlet Fever when he was in office. It is during the Civil War. There are a series of people who congregate in the cemetery and are there to see Willie laid to rest.

What the reader is aware of is that these people are all dead. They have all died in a variety of different time periods and their language reflects the era in which they died. There are quite a number and they are all involved in some seemingly supernatural fight for their lives.

The Bardo is a Buddhist term. It is the period after death and before rebirth when the soul is disconnected from the physical body and has a series of experiences. Willie and the rest of the individuals are in the Bardo.

The other inhabitants operate as a kind of chorus who keep the story moving and offer explanatory and expository information for the reader. A further interesting aspect the author uses is that he has researched contemporary commentary on how writers viewed many of the events depicted and has used those writings to show that any one event can be viewed and interpreted in a variety of ways.

And, since this is Twilight Zone material…..that is all I will say. Because, as in all good TZ episodes, the twist is always the best part of the story. Book clubs that really want to discuss allegory, theme, exposition and the meat and potatoes of writing will really enjoy discussing this book.

If your book club just wants to drink wine and touch on a book, I challenge you to give this one a go. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Five stars. ( )
  ozzie65 | Jun 20, 2017 |
This book is astonishing and unlike anything else I've ever read. ( )
  nikkinmichaels | Jun 13, 2017 |
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On our wedding day I was forty-six, she was eighteen.
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Unread I hold it,
a new Saunders book is come.
My evening expands.

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