When I dove into this collection of short stories, I felt like I had found a new personal hero in George Saunders. I’m not going to say peer because he is a uniquely gifted, genius writer, but someone who I feel like we’re on the same wave length or at least have similar style with our sense of humor. He is funny. This book is funny. And weird. And after finding him, I’ve learned that he has been cranking out one amazing book after another (Lincoln in the Bardo, Tenth of December, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline). This collection has five short stories and a novella, Pastoralia, which depicts a man and woman acting as caveman and cavewoman in a theme park. The jobs are repetitious, the woman keeps breaking character and the theme park managers have a litany of conditions and considerations that must be met by the employees. The main character is in a fix because his co-worker isn’t good at her job, which includes constantly staying in character even though there isn’t always a flow of customers. And they aren’t allowed to speak to each other in any discernable language because they are cave dwellers.
“Jeez,” she says first thing this morning. “I’m so tired of roast goat I could scream.”
“I go into my Separate Area and put on my footies. I have some cocoa and take out a Daily Partner Performance Evaluation Form.
“Do I note any attitudinal difficulties? I do not. How to I rate my Partner overall? Very good. Are there any Situations which require Mediation?
“There are not.
“I fax it in.”
It made me think of this exchange between Janeane Garofalo and Matthew Broderick from The Cable Guy.
JG: “I’ll be your serving wench Melinda. Might I fetch you something from the barkeep?”
MB: “Can I get a knife and fork?”
JG: “There were no utensils in medieval times, hence there are not utensils at Medieval Times. Would you like a refill on that Pepsi?
MB: “There were no utensils, but there was Pepsi?”
JG: “Dude, I’ve got a lot of tables.”
But I digress.
I guess since I’m doing a “book” review and I’m raving about the book that maybe I should be quoting the actual book and not a Jim Carrey film that was received with mixed to poor critical reviews. But that one passage sums up the novella for me.
“Winky” … about a motivational speaker, who wrote ‘People of Power.’
“And as for Ellen, Ellen still has some issues, she’d take a big old dump in my oatmeal right now if I gave her half a chance, but guess what folks, I’m not giving her that half a chance, because I’ve installed a protective screen over my oatmeal – not a literal screen, but a metaphorical protective screen.”
“Sea Oak” … about a male stripper at a place called ‘Joysticks.’
And so on.