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CivilWarLand in Bad Decline (1996)

by George Saunders

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1,790717,303 (4.06)57
A novella and short stories on a future America, a land of corporate hypocrisy, violence and pollution. Trendy attractions include pickled babies and cows with plexiglass sides, so you can see the milk made, people buy other people's more interesting memories for downloading into their heads.

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Showing 1-5 of 69 (next | show all)
I hated it but I think only because life really is as gross as Saunders depicts despite it seeming like satire. ( )
  mayalekach | Sep 25, 2021 |
It's about time I started the Saunders stories, so thought I'd begin at the beginning. Wow, these are darker than I thought they would be? For some reason when I heard about the amusement parks I figured they'd be more whimsical. But these stories are frantic, full of detail, deranged, jumping from one thing to the next, rushing, dark but hilarious and full of heart. So many ghosts! So many odd characters with odd jobs -- Saunders should write for the most bizarre sitcoms ever. My problem with most short stories is that if I love them, I wish they were full novels, so they could be even longer and detailed. However, upon getting to the miserable heartbreaking novella 'Bounty' at the end, almost a hundred pages long and reintroducing slavery of genetic mutants into a future America, I then realized that maybe these are short stories for a reason and some misery is too much misery. But then I also liked the explanation of this in the afterword. Don't skip the afterword. I can see so many writers like him now. Then I realized that this was 1996 and came before many of the writers I am putting in the same boat. Saunders may have invented this style. ( )
  booklove2 | Jun 15, 2021 |
I picked this book up because Thomas Pynchon blurbed it, and while I'm not sure I enjoyed it quite as much as he did ("graceful" isn't necessarily an adjective I'd use), it was still good. It's a collection of similarly-themed short stories and a novella, mostly set in a post-apocalyptic America. All of the protagonists have horrible jobs and are miserable, possibly crippled people who endure lots of depressing life events. Saunders keeps the stories from being too suicide-inducing by using lots of skillfully-done deadpan, ironic dialogue (much of which is flat-out hilarious, especially in the Bounty novella at the end), and a big part of the humor comes from the setups, usually the degrading careers the protagonists are trapped in. It's always tempting to look for allegory in fiction, so I imagine workplaces like the decrepit and historically inaccurate CivilWarLand in the first story or the shady "raccoon relocation" service in the fourth story are parodies of modern dead-end occupations; Saunders must have done his fair share of service-industry wage-slavery in his day. Some of the stuff that happens to the characters is pretty gross (think a more adult Chuck Palahniuk with better writing skills), but overall this was more funny than sad, and sometimes even moving - "Isabelle" is a flat-out great story that is worth the price of the book alone. Noted idiot reviewer Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times compared him to Kurt Vonnegut, and while I always wait for a bolt of lightning to strike down whoever idly tosses around Vonnegut's name, in this case I don't think he would be displeased to read this "dark, authentic, and funny" collection. ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
Didn't really do a lot for me, but Saunders is clearly someone with immense talent. Looking forward to Lincoln in the Bardo, which, by the time I get to it, we will all probably be living in CivilWarLand. ( )
  skolastic | Feb 2, 2021 |
An interesting selection of American quasi-dystopian stories around the same small set of themes from George Saunders. Essentially, critique of American society, with characters either failing to do well in otherwise-decent environments, or decent characters in objectively crazy situations.

(I try to read a lot of books, most of which end up in a few genres of fiction and a few professional or academic areas. This was one of the "read something random" selection, and it worked out well.) ( )
  octal | Jan 1, 2021 |
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A novella and short stories on a future America, a land of corporate hypocrisy, violence and pollution. Trendy attractions include pickled babies and cows with plexiglass sides, so you can see the milk made, people buy other people's more interesting memories for downloading into their heads.

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