I joined the army

The George Saunders army, that is. I did this a few weeks ago, on a whim, since I really liked Saunders’s first book of stories, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, and I occasionally read his stories and humor pieces in The New Yorker. They promised to send those who sign up a package full of cool stuff. I didn’t really believe it, or figured supplies would already be gone.

But no, my stuff arrived yesterday, and it’s really kind of fun. It includes a poster with the above picture on one side and a “Saunders book cathedral step-by-step construction guide” on the other, and an In Persuasion Nation (his latest book) “recruitment tool,” which gives advice on how to sell more Saunders books, by saying things like CivilWarLand in Bad Decline is really about:

An attractive puppy who actually speaks English sentences as he repeatedly saves his master’s life, only no one can hear him but the family bunny, who is dying very bravely while imparting valuable life lessons to the talking puppy, who sometimes gets discouraged because no one understands his words and they just keep picking him up.

Or, it is really about:

The Civil War, but in an upbeat way, with lots of jokes, dancing, and redemptive humor that reinforces traditional American values, such as shooting while running uphill.


Which, by the way, isn’t what the book is about at all. I also got a chapbook with previously uncollected nonfiction pieces, and some iron-ons and temporary tattoos. I have to admit that I haven’t read his last two collections of stories, but I would like to. It just takes me forever to get around to reading stories. Sorry, short story writers.

I met George Saunders once. About ten years ago when I was working in a bookstore, I learned from a fellow employee that his wife went to church with George Saunders and his family, who happened to live locally. A bookish friend visited me shortly after I learned this, and, being big fans of CivilWarLand, we decided to go find the poor author and get him to sign our books — before the Sunday church service. We waited in the parking lot until they showed up. Saunders was quite nice to us, although I wonder what he thought. It’d be cool to have fans tracking you down, but … on the way to church? And if you know something about Saunders’s fiction, you might find it odd that he’s a church-going guy (or was), but I found that all the more interesting. Actually, I think I read in an interview that he is now a Buddhist.

I’ll have to find a place to hang the poster. If you want to get a sense of what this guy is like, check out this interview.

By the way, since I’ve been thinking about various types of blogs (see yesterday’s post), I found this interesting: Daniel Green from The Reading Experience has a post about how lit blogs can help foster a reading culture.

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