Thursday, February 28, 2013

George Saunders rules

This is not news. But so far this month I've read Tenth of December, his new collection of stories, and the title story in CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. I thought I'd excerpt a few sentences from the latter:
Mr. Grayson, Staff Ornithologist, has recently recalculated and estimates that to accurately approximate the 1865 bird population we'll need to eliminate a couple hundred orioles or so. He suggests using air guns or poison.
This is the sort of detail that seems ridiculous and true at the same time, which Saunders' stories are full of to bursting. It's amazing how easily humor and cruelty coexist in his work.

A little (sort of) tangent:

When I visited Vicksburg National Military Park in 2011, I remember looking out over the valley between the Union and Confederate positions. Several bulldozers worked to down extant trees, and a few smoking heaps of wet trees made the entire park smell like wood fire. The valley was a huge, hilly demolition site, mostly dirt. This was the historical preservation project.

That's a bit more prosaic than Saunders' envisioning of preservation, but the idea is the same.

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