George Saunders, “The Bohemians”

I remember being really charmed by his book Pastoralia, which is all about garbled management-speak and commercial items with wacky MultiCapNames and the basic human inability to step off stage ever.  In Persuasion Nation is just like that too, but it starts to feel like a schtick; yeah, yeah, in the future people think the most meaningful thing they can do is view advertisements, it’s comic yet eerily like our present condition, I get it.  But then again there’s “The Bohemians,” the best story here and a completely different thing:

Eddie Sr. rushed to the hospital with his Purple Heart and some photos of Eddie as a grinning wet-chinned kid on a pony.  He found Eddie handcuffed to the bed, with an IV drip and a smashed face.  Apparently, he’d bitten one of the Armenians.  Bail was set at three hundred.  The tailor shop made zilch.  Eddie Sr.’s fabrics were a lexicon of yesteryear.  Dust coated a bright-yellow sign that read “Zippers Repaired in Jiffy.”

“Jail for that kid, I admit, don’t make total sense,” the judge said.  “Three months in the Anston.  Best I can do.”

There’s really no other explanation for this but that George Saunders woke up one day and said “I want to write a Grace Paley story.” Well, why shouldn’t he?  Rock bands should cover the Velvet Underground and short story writers should try to write Grace Paley stories, though inevitably, in both cases, most will fail.

You can read “The Bohemians” online at the New Yorker.  Or watch him read it at Housing Works in NYC.  He plays for yuks more than I think is correct.

Part 1:

Part 2:  (the quoted paragraph is right at the beginning of this part.)

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