“Funtimes in Bablyon”

Martin Ansin, The New Yorker

Today I read:

The Semplica Girl Diaries” by George Saunders

My love for George Saunders should come as no surprise, really: he’s a master of creeping, cutting weirdness, at once sensitive and satirical, and “The Semplica Girl Diaries” is a great example of Saunders in top form.

One one level, the story is a very timely portrait of a middle-class family struggling to live beyond their means in tight economic times.  But all that is achieved through surreal speculative elements that are slipped so dextrously into an otherwise familiar world.

The way Saunders reveals the strangeness of this piece is really admirable.  Rather than harping on the speculative elements, Saunders takes them for granted, treating what would otherwise be a highly genre-y premise in a very straightforward way, couching it in the plain language of journal entries, and only slowly revealing the logistics of these science fictional aspects, so that by the time this part of the story becomes important, the reader is already invested enough in the emotional stakes of the story to accept the unusual.

In short, George Saunders is a genius.

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