CivilWarLand in Bad Decline

CivilWarLand in Bad Decline

4.3 12
by George Saunders
     
 

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Since its publication in 1996, George Saunders’s debut collection has grown in esteem from a cherished cult classic to a masterpiece of the form, inspiring an entire generation of writers along the way. In six stories and a novella, Saunders hatches an unforgettable cast of characters, each struggling to survive in an increasingly haywire world. With a new

Overview

Since its publication in 1996, George Saunders’s debut collection has grown in esteem from a cherished cult classic to a masterpiece of the form, inspiring an entire generation of writers along the way. In six stories and a novella, Saunders hatches an unforgettable cast of characters, each struggling to survive in an increasingly haywire world. With a new introduction by Joshua Ferris and a new author’s note by Saunders himself, this edition is essential reading for those seeking to discover or revisit a virtuosic, disturbingly prescient voice.
 
Praise for George Saunders and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline
 
“It’s no exaggeration to say that short story master George Saunders helped change the trajectory of American fiction.”The Wall Street Journal
 
“Saunders’s satiric vision of America is dark and demented; it’s also ferocious and very funny.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
 
“George Saunders is a writer of arresting brilliance and originality, with a sure sense of his material and apparently inexhaustible resources of voice. [CivilWarLand in Bad Decline] is scary, hilarious, and unforgettable.”—Tobias Wolff
 
“Saunders makes the all-but-impossible look effortless.”—Jonathan Franzen
 
“Not since Twain has America produced a satirist this funny.”—Zadie Smith
 
“An astoundingly tuned voice—graceful, dark, authentic, and funny—telling just the kinds of stories we need to get us through these times.”—Thomas Pynchon




From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

James Marcus

George Saunders' first collection arrives with ecstatic blurbs from Thomas Pynchon, Tobias Wolff, and Garrison Keillor, and what the hell, the guy actually deserves it. The author, a geophysical engineer, specializes in pitch-black satire. His stories take place sometime in the near future, and many of them feature entrepreneurial concepts to die for. One character runs the Burn 'n' Learn franchise, with "a fully stocked library on the premises and as you tan you call out the name of any book you want to these high-school girls on roller skates." Others work in virtual-reality theme parks, which offer shabby duplications of the Civil War or a Day at the Beach. Saunders has a great ear for professional jargon, and his descriptions of these dystopian Disneylands invariably ring true.

In the title story, for example, the narrator manages a crew of Adjunct Thespians, Verisimilitude Inspectors, and Historical Reconstruction Associates. Another theme park -- a fake farm called Our Nation's Bounty -- includes among its exhibits a cow with a see-through panel in its stomach. ("The idea was to provide schoolchildren insight into the digestive process of a large mammal.") Given their satiric slant, these stories aren't particularly plot-driven. In most of them, the employees are falling apart at about the same speed as the business, and it's a race to see who will last longer. But Saunders' voice, deadpan and hilarious, keeps you coming back for more, and not even the occasional patches of tough-guy lyricism can succeed in derailing it. -- Salon

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this debut collection of seven dystopian fantasies, some of which have appeared in the New Yorker and Harper's, America in the near future is a toxic wasteland overrun by vicious thugs and venal opportunists who prey on the weak and misshapen. Saunders's feverish imagination conjures up images as horrific as any from a Hieronymus Bosch painting: a field full of braying mules toppled over from bone marrow disease; a tourist attraction featuring pickled stillborn babies; and cows with Plexiglas windows in their sides. The black humor and vision of American enterprise and evangelism gone haywire are reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut's early works. In the novella "Bounty,'' for example, the clawed-foot narrator, who flees slavery under the "Normals'' to find his sister, sees a McDonald's that is the headquarters of the Church of Appropriate Humility, aka "the Guilters.'' "In Guilter epistemology,'' he observes, "the arches represent the twin human frailties of arrogance and mediocrity.'' Despite the richness of the vision and the occasionally heart-melting prose, however, there is little difference in voice to distinguish one story from another. Read in one sitting, they blur into a bleak and unsettling vision of the world to come. (Jan.)
Library Journal
This group of stories focuses on characters who work in a theme park called CivilWarLand in the future United States. Environmental pollution and genetic mutation have taken their toll, dividing the population into Normals and Flaweds. America's farmland lies fallow. All scramble to feed themselves and their families. Cars are hauled by horses, barges are hauled by humans, and technology continues its amazing feats, such as "off-loading" human memories, which are then sold as virtual-reality experiences. People continue to struggle for recognition, for wealth, and for the American Dream in the face of grinding poverty and limited opportunities. Saunders's surreal depiction of a bleak future for the country is both startling and believable. Here's hoping he is not a prophet. The author is a teacher and consultant for Raytheon. This is his first work of fiction. Recommended for public libraries.-Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Continuing Education Lib.
Joanne Wilkinson
Saunders presents his unique vision of America in the near future in this debut collection of short stories. In a landscape littered by gutted Wal-Marts and condemned Arbys, Saunders' astoundingly naive characters encounter high-tech absurdity and savage cruelty. Throughout this collection, the author parades one stunning image after the next: see-through cows, a virtual-reality entrepreneur who off-loads and sells his own memories for $3,000 per decade, a cheesy theme park with a SafeOrgy Room and shrink-wrapped clients. These stories are all of a piece, all stamped with Saunders' hallucinatory, feverish images, so that there is no clear line of demarcation between his pieces. That seems a small quibble, though, in view of his uncanny ability to take readily recognizable elements from the present and warp them just enough to scare and dazzle his readers. These stories are inventive, hilarious, and terrifying.
From the Publisher
Praise for CivilWarLand in Bad Decline:

A New York Times Notable Book

"An astoundingly tuned voice—graceful, dark, authentic, and funny—telling just the kinds of stories we need to get us through these times."—Thomas Pynchon

"The dystopian short story is alive and kicking, wearing a black leather jacket—maybe stolen in a barroom brawl—and telling deadly dark, off-color jokes. His name is George Saunders, and he's half-huckster, half-saint; he's got shades of both Denis Johnson and Raymond Chandler.... By turns he's ferocious, witty, and uproarious, but what makes his fiction memorable is the gravitas of its dark portraiture of America."—The Boston Globe

"Ingenious...full of savage humor and originality [and] scorching brilliance...the author creates a nightmarish post-apocalyptic world that might have been envisioned by Walt Disney on acid."—The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Alarming and funny...Saunders invites comparison less to Aldous Huxley than to Kurt Vonnegut.... A debut of an original, darkly funny voice."—The Atlantic Journal-Constitution

"A savage satirist with a sentimental streak who delineates, in these pages, the dark underbelly of the American dream...Mr. Saunder's satiric vision of America is dark and demented; it is also ferocious and very funny."—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307822222
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/27/2012
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
192
Sales rank:
270,427
File size:
2 MB

What People are saying about this

Garrison Keillor
This book is a rare event: a brilliant new satirist bursting out of the gate in full stride, wildly funny, pure, generous -- all that a great humorist should be.
Tobias Wolff
Scary, hilarious, and unforgettable...George Saunders is a writer of arresting brilliance and originality.
From the Publisher
Praise for CivilWarLand in Bad Decline:

A New York Times Notable Book

"An astoundingly tuned voice—graceful, dark, authentic, and funny—telling just the kinds of stories we need to get us through these times."—Thomas Pynchon

"The dystopian short story is alive and kicking, wearing a black leather jacket—maybe stolen in a barroom brawl—and telling deadly dark, off-color jokes. His name is George Saunders, and he's half-huckster, half-saint; he's got shades of both Denis Johnson and Raymond Chandler.... By turns he's ferocious, witty, and uproarious, but what makes his fiction memorable is the gravitas of its dark portraiture of America."—The Boston Globe

"Ingenious...full of savage humor and originality [and] scorching brilliance...the author creates a nightmarish post-apocalyptic world that might have been envisioned by Walt Disney on acid."—The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Alarming and funny...Saunders invites comparison less to Aldous Huxley than to Kurt Vonnegut.... A debut of an original, darkly funny voice."—The Atlantic Journal-Constitution

"A savage satirist with a sentimental streak who delineates, in these pages, the dark underbelly of the American dream...Mr. Saunder's satiric vision of America is dark and demented; it is also ferocious and very funny."—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Thomas Pynchon
An astoundingly tuned voice -- graceful, dark, authentic, and funny -- telling just the kind of stories we need to get through these times.

Meet the Author

George Saunders is the author of eight books, including the story collections Pastoralia and Tenth of December, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. He has received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 2006 he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. In 2013 he was awarded the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story and was included in Time’s list of the one hundred most influential people in the world. He teaches in the creative writing program at Syracuse University.


From the Hardcover edition.

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CivilWarLand in Bad Decline 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a great read for anyone. I enjoyed it to the fullest. It is almost as good as his second book. Amazing read!!
NathanDPhillips More than 1 year ago
Saunders' comedy at its most raw. This black comic collection stands in contrast to the more lighthearted, though in my opinion better "Tenth of December". The stories seem to take place in the same world, one different than our own but frighteningly recognizable.  I highly recommend this for everyone.
jlgc More than 1 year ago
Civilwarland in Bad Decline is a collection of short stories and one novella written by George Saunders. George Saunders has a unique view of the human condition. The book was hard to put down. The stories are set in the United States, but it is the United States sometime in the future or it is a parallel dimension. The stories are darkly humorous and disturbing. The portrayal of the human condition is disconcertingly accurate. These are stories of normal, flawed people who try their hardest and often fail or are taken advantage of. I wouldn’t recommend this book for youth, it is most definitely an adult book. There are a few disturbing scenes. Issues such as murder, sabotage, and slavery are discussed. Surprisingly, I found it worth my while.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
EXTRAS~~~Accents: Rawbones: American. Bombkill: Heavy Russian Accent. Doctor: German accent when angry. VEHICLES: Rawbones: Cybertronian Motorcycle, a carbon copy of a Harley Davidson Chopper model, though slightly bulkier and 'Cybertronized.' Barrier: monster truck Cybertronized. The Doctor: something like that, tough, obviously bigger. Bombkill is Ratchet's alt mode though completely red. NOTES: this is set in the 'TFPRIME' reality, some time before the War for Cybertron. (At least 3 decades before, if not thousands of years before). Just one thing: Masterspark's appearance is quite similiar to the Transformers original looks, (before they copycat earty vehicles) in the movies (something like that), though he is more 'skinny' and taller. THIS IS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY OVERLORD BALDER.******************************(goto next result for Chapter 1)
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the boss dudes! Some guy told me that this book is the bossenest book around. Read it and you to can be totally bossinated you boss dudes!