Tag Archives: short stories

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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Someone mentioned the George R.R. Martin short story “Sandkings” on MetaFilter.  I read this as a kid and it scared the hell out of me.  To my surprise, I still think it’s kind of great.  And my thirty-year-old memory of the last sentence was word-for-word correct.

I read this in the August 1979 issue of OMNI, a subscription my parents bought me because it sounded educational.  In fact what I got out of it was nightmares about sandkings and the understanding that you could sharpen a razor blade by leaving it under a pyramid overnight.

The other really frightening story I remember from OMNI was “Fat Farm,” which according to Wikipedia was by Orson Scott Card and appeared in the January 1980 issue. Remember when Orson Scott Card was good?  Looking at the first page of this story on Google Books, it seems he wasn’t as good as George R.R. Martin was, back when I was eight years old and easy to frighten.

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