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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Outsiders and oddities in George Saunders's fiction

Been a fan of George Saunders for some time and fandom continues w/ another strange story from GS in current New Yorker double-issue, Mother's Day. Typical of Saunders: capturing the interior life of quirky, outsider characters who generally inhabit no more than the margins of fiction/literature, bringing them to life with humor and pathos. As is typical, this story encompasses only a very short span of action - two women approach each other on the street, essentially that's it - but by giving us access the the odd, rambling thoughts of these 2 he captures and encompasses two lives led parallel and sometimes in opposition. One woman, Alma, a former beauty and no a frumpy elderly woman, on the eponymous holiday, takes a walk, against her will, with her two children, each of them failures in their way, and as she walks she thinks about her children and her shortcomings as a parent and tries, pathetically, to absolve herself from guilt; also thinks about her late, unfaithful husband. The woman she's approaching, Debi, same age, a one-time free spirit in what appears to be a fairly conservative, probably mid-Western town, and Debi reflects on her own failures a mother and on her many love affairs and sexual encounters, the most enduring of which was with Alma's husband. The moment of crisis in the story involves whether and to what degree the two women, once rivals, should acknowledge each other. Of course what makes the story is Saunders's unusual and always just slightly off kilter use of language, which in this story even involves a # of neologisms and oddly fractures sentences that really do see to capture the jumbled though processes of oddities, outsiders, actually, probably, all of us.

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