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CivilWarLand in Bad Decline

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Overview

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

A New York Times Notable Book

"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."—Garrison Keillor

"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

...

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CivilWarLand in Bad Decline

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Overview

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

A New York Times Notable Book

"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."—Garrison Keillor

"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

"Scary, hilarious, and unforgettable . . . George Saunders is a writer of arresting brilliance and originality."—Tobias Wolff

"A cool satirist and a wicked stylist. The quirkiest and most accomplished short-story debut since Barry Hannah's Airships."—Jay McInerney, The New York Times Book Review

"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

"The debut of an exciting new voice in fiction. Mr. Saunders writes like the illegitimate offspring of [Nathaniel] West and Kurt Vonnegut, perhaps a distant relative of Mark Leyner and Steven Wright. He's a savage satirist with a sentimental streak who delineates, in these pages, the dark underbelly of the American dream: the losses, delusions, and terrors suffered by the lonely, the disenfranchised, the downtrodden and the plain unlucky. . . . Bizarre events pop up regularly in CivilWarLand like road signs on a highway, directing the reader toward the dark heart of Mr. Saunders's America. What powers the stories along is Mr. Saunders's wonderfully demented language, his ear for absurdity and slang, his own patented blend of psychobabble, techno-talk and existential angst. Mr. Saunders's satiric vision of America is dark and demented; it is also ferocious and very funny."—The New York Times

"Mr. Saunders writes like the illegitimate offspring of Nathaniel West and Kurt Vonnegut, perhaps a distant relative of Mark Leyner and Steven Wright. . . . Mr. Saunders' satiric vision of America is dark, and demented; it is also ferocious and very funny."--The New York Times

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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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781573225793
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/28/1997
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 99,281
  • Product dimensions: 5.06 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.47 (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 4.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2013

    Decepticon Chronicles~Cybertronian Civil War

    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)

    1 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2001

    Great Read

    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!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 8, 2013

    Saunders' comedy at its most raw. This black comic collection st

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2000

    This is the boss dudes!

    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!

    0 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2010

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    Posted April 12, 2013

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    Posted May 31, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2013

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    Posted August 9, 2014

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