Sunday, February 17, 2013

Saunders, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline #24-29

George Saunders
Civilwarland in Bad Decline
Stories and a novella
Riverhead Books, first published 1996
#24-29  in the I will read and take brief notes on 300 short stories series

Civilwarland in Bad Decline
Absurdist and violent, the narrator recounts the decline and fall of a simulated Civil War park, replete with gangs, ghosts, a hired killer, and the narrator's own bloody death. The story follows the narrator's conscience; he starts out as a functionary, a yes-man, but by the end, as more innocent people are targeted and killed, he sees what he has helped destroy. There is a scene where one of the ghosts gets caught in some kind of violent loop and must reenact the murder of his own family, a ghost killing ghosts and the narrator himself will soon be a ghost. There is horror all around.

Some terrible people cope with special needs, murder, and love. Poverty, miseducation, and despair are the undertones.

The Wavemaker Falters
The ghost of a boy who was killed at a water park of some kind (mermaid shows and fake Basques who pretend to speak for the customers) haunts the man, the wavemaker, who was responsible for his death. The Wavemaker sinks deep into depression as his wife has an affair with a supervisor. The boy, Clive, speculates on all the things he'll miss, and as he meets ghosts from other times and realms, is introduced to words like 'nosegay' without understanding what they mean. These characters could sustain a full novel.

The 400-Pound CEO
Jeffrey, an abused, obese invoice clerk in a raccoon-killing, false-hope to its customers company, suffers at the unending cruelties of his co-workers and boss. In a twist of fate, he ends up accidentally killing the boss who was going to do grievous harm to a reporter ready to expose the firm's lies. There's a lot of misery in this story, and a meditation on God and a possible subGod who has been torturing the world's weakest, most needy humans, those who need the most and are ineligible for love and dignity.

Offloading for Mrs. Schwartz
The narrator owns a failing franchise for allowing people to upload holographic scenarios and live alternate realities. He also can offload real memories from brains onto hard drives, thereby transferring experiences and knowledge from one person to one or more others. He finally runs out of people from whom he can take memories, so he writes himself a detailed note and erases much of himself, all in sacrifice for an elderly woman who needs constant nursing care.

Downtrodden Mary's Failed Campaign of Terror
Mary is a very old woman, around 92, who is still working, under the thumb of a petty tyrant. Pickled babies (all her own stillborn children) haunt her from their jars and she is under constant surveillance and retribution for the bad behavior of the customer. Her whole bad luck history is woven into the story, and in the end, she can't even triumph in her own suicide. Oh, and there are genetically altered see-through cows.

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