John Dugdale

Micro-Societies

The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil and In Persuasion Nation

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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.

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