Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Bacopa Literary Review: Bits and Pieces of Good Writing: George Saunders

by Fiction Editor U.R. Bowie

George Saunders'“Mother’s Day” in The New Yorker is a funny story, lots of great humor, but—as with all quality humorous writing—the fiction is anchored in the serious.
Sweeping like a banshee in front of that same tiny former carriage house she’d lived in since she was a girl. With her oddball parents. Mandy and Randy. Both had limps. Different limps. When they walked down the street it was like a freaking dance party.
Note what some might consider offensive writing here. Let them. If you want to write good fiction do not concern yourself with political correctness. Good fiction describes Life, and Life has no truck with political correctness. Is it sin to laugh at a descriptions of limping people? No. Go ahead and laugh. God will absolve you of your sins.
[appearing at the pearly gates]: she didn’t exactly love the idea of showing up at the pearly gates or whatnot and having St. Whoever look her up in his book and go, Whoa, hey, I was just sitting here tabulating the number of guys you had in your life, and, yikes, can you wait here a second while I go check with God on what the limit is?
[caught in a hailstorm]: The hail-thingies bouncing off Debi’s black umbrella looked like sweat flying off a cartoon-guy’s head when he was supposed to be worried. Paul, Sr., had once shown her a porn like that. A cartoon porn. The one Paulie later found. Guy so worried, watching his wife have at it with a big sailor…
[heart attack]: Alma got hold of a fence slat. To pull—pull herself out. Of this. Pain. Something new was happening now. The tightness in her chest was worse. Jesus. Like labor with Paulie. Then it went past that, to labor with Pammy, and she was giving birth to something bigger than Pammy, out her chest.
Funny, the best story I ever read by George Saunders was also in The New Yorker, years ago. It was about a man caught up in a bank robbery. Don’t remember the title. As I recall it, the man in the bank kept making jokes, and the bank robbers did not take kindly to that. Can’t recall what else happened, but it sure was a dang good story!

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  1. The story described near the end here sounds like Tobias Wolff's "Bullet in the Brain," which appeared in the New Yorker in 1995. If it is, then it's not Saunders, of course, but still, the point here is well-taken, and yes -- it's a fantastic story as well! There is some good humor in it, but as with Saunders's writing, it has some very serious undertones, too. (Saunders's story "Sea Oak" is a classic, too, that involves much of what you describe above.)

  2. Ha. That's funny, if my memory did not even conjure up the correct writer. The point I was making at the end was that often, years later, all you can remember about a great piece of writing was that you thought it was great!