‘Fox 8’ by George Saunders

One day, walking neer one of your Yuman houses, smelling all the interest with snout, I herd, from inside, the most amazing sound. Turns out, what that sound is, was: the Yuman voice, making werds.

I love George Saunders. No, I REALLY love George Saunders. A friend saved me this story from her weekend Guardian.  She saved it because it was about foxes and was slightly bemused by my whoops of glee when I saw who the author was.

This is a deceptively simple yet tragic tale of foxes and their difficult relationship with the human-dominated world. But the magic of Saunders is such that his stories work on many levels. This brilliant and engaging story is written in the form of a letter from a fox to a human, and is an allegory not only for our tricky and destructive relationship with the natural world, but also of immigrants and immigration—as seen through an animal’s eyes. Genius.

Published in The Guardian, 21st October, 2017. Read it online here

‘The Semplica Girl Diaries’ by George Saunders

I hesitated about having two stories by the same author in my top twelve—but not for long. Not many stories can hold a candle to this disturbing tale by George Saunders. A kind of horrific and futuristic keeping up with the Joneses, which touches on immigration, slavery, prostitution and many other uncomfortable things that we would probably rather not think about. Saunders always leaves the reader something to reflect on and this story has it in spades. Saunders manipulation of language is masterly.
Last night, after party, found Eva sad in her room. Asked why. She said no reason. But in sketch pad: crayon pic of row of sad SGs. Could tell were meant to be sad, due to frowns went down off faces like Fu Manchus and tears were dropping in arcs, flowers springing up where tears hit ground.
From Tenth of December, Bloomsbury, 2013, first published in The New Yorker, 2012. Read it here

‘Puppy’ by George Saunders

Two women briefly cross paths. Marie lives in a big house, drives a Lexus, and indulges her three demanding children. Callie lives on the rough side of town and tries to keep her son off the behaviour- controlling medication doctors have advised him to take. The women meet when Marie and her children visit Callie to buy a puppy she is selling. “It was a nice pup,” thinks Callie, “White, with brown around one eye. Cute. If the lady showed up, she’d definitely want it.” But when Marie shows up, she misunderstands what is happening in the household, and, with the bravado of the privileged, initiates a staggering wave of destruction. Saunders often seeks out the absurdity of American social structures, makes something that is familiar laughable through a kind of exaggeration. ‘Puppy’ is from a collection that came out after America became involved in Afghanistan and Iraq though, after the no man’s land between different Americans became greater and deeper, and it is part of a body of work that is both darker and more illuminating than Saunder’s earlier fiction.

From Tenth of December (Random House), first published in The New Yorker, May 28, 2007 and available online here

‘The Semplica Girl Diaries’ by George Saunders

When I heard, only a year or so ago, that Saunders was a master of the short story, indeed acclaimed in the USA as the best, I immediately went out and bought Tenth of December. I found his bizarre stories were unlike any I’d read before. Semplica Girls are the ultimate status symbol – girls from third-world countries paid to ‘decorate’ the lawns of wealthy Americans. They are strung up on microlines that run through their brains and in their flowing white gowns are a kind of human washing line. Supposedly this does not hurt them. Of course things go wrong. Told in diary form, this story explodes the hollowness of the American dream, well and truly.

(First published in The New Yorker, 2012, and subsequently in his collection Tenth of December)