Wednesday, March 18, 2009

In Persuasion Nation by George Saunders

A bag of Doritos beats up a young man: "'Who do you think you are?' the young man screams at the Doritos bag. 'Do you believe yourself to be some sort of god?' You're a bag of corn chips, with tons of salt and about nine colouring agents! That's all! That's all you are!' The Doritos bag takes a huge sword from behind the back of its bag and decapitates the young man."
The cogs churning George Saunders' mind never cease to amaze me. He comes up with these weird - and yet not entirely irrelevant - scenarios and technology in his short stories. In his collection of short stories, In Persuasion Nation, we have the 'I CAN SPEAK' technology which enables your baby to 'talk'; a type of sensor in one's shoes that personalizes ads as you walk around the city. Then there are SmallCows which are frozen mini-steaks that can be microwaved or have their "ThermoTab" pulled: "When you pull the ThermoTab,something chemical happens and the SmallCows heat up."

He plunges the reader into these worlds - although consumed with newfangled technology, still quite like the world today in its own way - with little warning, and when you finally emerge from it, it's not easy to head into another one. So these stories, I reckon, need to be gnawed at one at a time.

However, while I've loved most of his other works that I've previously read, such as Pastoralia, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, and Civilwarland in Bad Decline, I found In Persuasion Nation harder to get through. Quite a few of the stories were a little too out there, and I just couldn't get through them at all.


Eva said...

Seriously?! A decapitating bag of Doritos?! I don't think I could handle that level of strangeness. Have you read any Aimee Bender? She writes 'odd' fiction as well-I really enjoyed her The Girl in the Flammable Skirt collection.

olduvai said...

And that's just a tiny part of that very very weird short story! And yes, I have read Aimee Bender, but only An Invisible Sign Of My Own. But thanks for reminding me about her!