11.29.2006

George Saunders on Borat

I'm really not sure what I think of this. It's the only piece of Saunders' writing that has not made me laugh (unlike Borat). He seems to be taking Baron Cohen to task on the exploitation issue, which is fair enough. But anyone could do that -- when I see me some Saunders, I want me some Saunders.

10 comments:

dunkeys said...

Good old George. Is this his first post-Macarthur offering? Off to a great start, as he seems to loathe Baron-Cohen for daring to mock real people -- which doesn't have nearly the integrity of Saunders's own work, the mockery of INVENTED CHARACTERS. The nice thing about inventing assholes and making fun of them is that they don't need to be consoled when the story's put down.

As far as he knows!

Obviously, I have issues, a large one being the manner in which GS is celebrated.

Grendel said...

I didn't know you were standing there arms folded refusing to get on the Saunders bandwagon, dunkeys! Can you sum up why not? Is it because he sometimes seems trivial, mean, and/or too goofy? I really am curious, and a little surprised.

dunkeys said...

I wrote an essay about in Pleiades last year, but since I don't think they posted it on their website, here's several pages condensed: Mainly I think he's cheap, as he strokes his readers' indignation by creating absurd polarizations (uber-passive narrators victimized by uber-cruel wives, bosses, etc.) and exaggerating the suffering to comic effect. It's funny in small doses but mostly repetitive and simplistic; he's almost like the comic twin of Cormac McCarthy.

(boy, I sound like I have zero sense of humor, don't I? Oh well.)

Dexter said...

Anti McCarthy & Saunders? What next? Jumping onto the Pynchon bashing bandwagon.

dunkeys said...

Um . . . .

Grendel said...

That bandwagon rumbled through these parts back in June.

dunkeys said...

I know this thread is mostly done, but in self-defense (self-castigation?) I can't honestly say there are more than three or four authors whose majority of work I really love. Can anyone?

Jane said...

I thought Saunders made some good points. Especially the one about (not) mocking inner-city blacks. The folks Cohen picks on are easy targets, and as with any satirical set-up (Daily Show interviews come to mind), clever and sometimes manipulative editing plays a big role.

But that doesn't mean Borat isn't fucking hilarious. And you can't feel too sorry for most of his "victims."

Dexter said...

I will have to catch up on the previous Pynchon discussion. I was referring to recent spate of reviews on his latest book. I thought Mason & Dixon good and very amusing but admittedly it took me ten years to get past the first 100 pages. BUt once I did I enjoyed it completely.

A current trend seems to be for a younger writer/critic to attack a mentor. Once blood is in the water other lesser beings smell it and then pile it on even going as far as to disparge works they have previously praised. The whole thing seems fraudulent.

editor said...

I don't recognise the description of GS as depicting characters as either completely passive and 'good' or completely aggressive and 'bad'. His characters have mixtures of all kinds of qualities and shortcomings. Also, he doesn't mock his characters, but treats them with a great deal of sensitivity and understanding. The characters who on the face of it seem 'bad' are often surprisingly sympathetic because we can see how, in many cases, they are under tremendous pressures. He is a tremendously tender writer and I think that is why he doesn't like Borat. Baron Cohen has specialised in making his interviewees look one dimensional and bigoted.

GS is not goofy either. He often uses the voice of modern, television educated, America. But he knows that that is an uneducated voice, and is showing us how these characters may be downtrodden but they have humanity too.