George Saunders’s most impressive story remains ‘Pastoralia’, which lent its title to his second collection. Its protagonist is the male half of a Stone Age couple in a Disney-style theme park; finding this full-time role frustrating, he jeopardises his livelihood by increasingly reckless breaches of the park management’s code for actors. This establishes the template for much of the American author’s subsequent output: an imagined micro-society with inscrutably perverse laws which are nevertheless docilely obeyed by the overwhelming majority, and an individual or group daring not to conform.
Also characteristic is a teasing technique of withholding basic information about the (often fantastic or futuristic) world in which a story takes place, forcing the reader to make deductions from information fragments divulged offhandedly.
Several of the works gathered in his latest collection, which brings together the titular novella and twelve