The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil

( 7 )

Overview

From the New York Times bestselling author of Tenth of December, a 2013 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction.

In a profoundly strange country called Inner Horner, large enough for only one resident at a time, citizens waiting to enter the country fall under the rule of the power-hungry and tyrannical Phil, setting off a chain of injustice and mass hysteria.

An Animal Farm for the 21st century, this is an incendiary political satire of ...

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Overview

From the New York Times bestselling author of Tenth of December, a 2013 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction.

In a profoundly strange country called Inner Horner, large enough for only one resident at a time, citizens waiting to enter the country fall under the rule of the power-hungry and tyrannical Phil, setting off a chain of injustice and mass hysteria.

An Animal Farm for the 21st century, this is an incendiary political satire of unprecedented imagination, spiky humor, and cautionary appreciation for the hysteric in everyone. Over six years in the writing, and brilliantly and beautifully packaged, this novella is Saunders' first stand-alone, book-length work—and his first book for adults in five years.

 

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Editorial Reviews

Eric Weinberger
All this can be amusing, even if it doesn't betray much effort; this is just talent speaking, the comic voice without the woundedness or anger that truly animates the satirist, like Saunders himself in his earlier work.
— The New York Times Book Review
San Francisco Bay Guardian
Saunders's prose is like a drug candy, compulsively swallowed, sweetly addictive... Anarchic and startling.
Time
Screamingly funny.
The New York Times
Artful and sophisticated...truly unusual. Imagine Lewis's Babbitt thrown into the backseat of a car going cross-country, driven by R. Crumb, Matt Groening, Lynda Barry, Harvey Pekar or Spike Jonze. That'd be a story Saunders could tell
Nylon
The bold successor to Thomas Pynchon and Kurt Vonnegut.
The Boston Globe
A searing satirist with a peculiar sensibility that allows him to wreak havok on a cheesy American landscape that is often uproariously implausible yet sickeningly familiar.
The Village Voice
A brilliant distortionist who devises dark, hallucinatory arenas and sets fierce satires against countercurrents of grotesque sentimentality.
Esquire
Saunders is a provocateur, a moralist, a zealot, a lefty, and a funny, funny writer.
Publishers Weekly
The shift of target to Iraq War-era America proves problematic for major 1990s satirist Saunders (Pastoralia), who here checks in with an allegorical novella centered on the tiny imaginary nations of Inner and Outer Horner. The citizens of Inner Horner, live-and-let-livers who have a lot of unproductive discussions, are countable on two hands, and they are not-quite-human: one man's torso is simply a tuna fish can and a belt. (There are 15 b&w illustrations scattered throughout.) When their nation suddenly shrinks, the group spills into Outer Horner, and a border dispute results. It paves the way for the rise of an everyman Outer Horner dictator named Phil-a jingoistic, brute-force bully. The eventual fortuitous military intervention by Greater Keller, a neighboring technocapitalist nation of latte drinkers, comes after much lingering over the mechanics of Phil's coup. (There are multiple references to the "spasming rack" from which Phil's brain periodically slides.) Despite press-chat comparisons to Animal Farm, the book lacks Orwell's willingness to follow his nightmare vision all the way out to the end. Saunders delivers some very funny exchanges and imaginative set-pieces, but literally has to call in a deus ex machina to effect Outer Horner's final undoing. It's entertaining, but politics and war don't really work that way, allegorically or otherwise. (Sept. 20) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
With an absurdist wit as playful as Monty Python's and a vision as dark as Samuel Beckett's, a post-modernist spins a provocative parable of political power and its abuses. This novella from Saunders (Pastoralia, stories, 2000, etc.) concerns the tensions between two countries, Inner Horner and Outer Horner. Inner Horner is the smallest country imaginable, so small that only one of its seven inhabitants can fit within its borders at a time. Then it inexplicably gets even smaller, making it impossible for Inner Hornerites to avoid "invading" the boundaries of the surrounding and more prosperous Outer Horner. Because their country is larger and has greater resources, the Outer Hornerites feel that they are favored by God, and that the fate of the Inner Hornerites reflects their innate inferiority. Citizens in this society are some combination of plant and machine; Outer Horner's president has multiple mustaches and chins (and three legs); and the media are mindlessly inept, parroting what they're told, distorting what they see. (Maybe this isn't so different after all.) As an Outer Hornerite pursuing a personal agenda against Inner Horner, a bitter citizen named Phil seizes power from the apparently senile president and bends the political apparatus of his country to his will. He imposes an onerous tax on the citizens of Inner Horner whenever they enter Outer Horner (where at least some of their body parts invariably intrude), thus turning victims into criminals. He then convinces his fellow citizens that those criminals are the embodiment of an absolute evil that must be exterminated. Tightly packed with detail, dialogue and black humor, the fairy tale narrative resolves itself in a mannerthat breathes fresh life into the Latin term deus ex machina ("god from the machine"). For those who appreciate speculative, experimental fiction, a mind-bending work inviting readers to ponder the nature of parable and the possibilities of language.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594481529
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/6/2005
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 602,677
  • Product dimensions: 5.06 (w) x 7.16 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

George Saunders is the author of Tenth of DecemberIn Persuasion Nation; The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil; Pastoralia; CivilWarLand in Bad Decline; The Braindead Megaphone; and a children's book, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip. His work appears regularly in the New Yorker, Harper's and GQ. In 2006, he was awarded a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant." In 2000, The New Yorker named him one of the "Best Writers Under 40."  He is a 2013 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction. He teaches at Syracuse University.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

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1 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2008

    A reviewer

    3.5 stars. You won't find CivilWarLand- or Pastoralia-grade laughs here, but you'll find a few. You'll also find a withering commentary on the basic human tendency to separate the world into Us and Them, and on the often concomitant basic human tendency to blindly follow leaders who define the 'Us's and 'Thems's in ways that soothe Us.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2012

    I noticed that a previous commenter referred to this book as &qu

    I noticed that a previous commenter referred to this book as "stupid/peurile," and I couldn't agree more! I give this book five stars because it's supposed to be "stupid." The entire 130 pages, in large font, double-spaced, takes place in the land of Inner and Outer Horner, home to strange, human-like characters. The story of this absurd, miniature realm finds humor in two miserable, offensive things: genocide and fascism. The overdramatic style reflects the most absurd characters, the president (Phil) and his advisor, the uncertain soldiers, and the loud-mouthed media (with megaphones growing out of their clavicles).
    This book has some very dark, silly humor, and is reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s novels with a more Seussical style. It’s short and highly entertaining, so you easily get caught up in it, only to realize you’ve finished! I loved it, and I found it perfect for a boring, lazy afternoon.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2008

    A reviewer

    I'm be too embarrassed to use 'stupid' as a review for a book, so I looked for an adequate synonym and thought this fit: 'peurile,' which is especially apropos of the writing style exemplified by this book. But 'stupid' might suit the purpose better, because 'Reign of Phil' is truly unworthy of any higher criticism.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2011

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    Posted August 23, 2010

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    Posted July 10, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2011

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