{Barbed Piano Wire} “The Tenth of December” by George Saunders (2013)

How to read and not envy George Saunders when George Saunders writes exactly the way you’d write had you not enrolled in twenty-three “how-to-write” courses, undergone the Ludovico treatment, and buried yourself under forty-two layers of affectation and accents and streamlined writerly rules in an effort to ingratiate yourself, and write like every other writer in the Western canon but in a voice uniquely your own?

George Sanders’ prose is effortless like duck soup, but reading Sanders is no emotional cakewalk. To guzzle stories (trust me, you will gormandize story after story, in seagull chugalug) like “Escape from Spiderhead” and “Semplica Girl Diaries” is to risk contracting the Cassandra syndrome. You will be able to see the lacerating entanglements of the near future but will be unable to convince anyone else about the noise of your grisly industrial visions.

These visions are available to everybody for $29.95 ($18.77 on ———). Or you may choose to borrow the black-and-white hardcover from your local library for free, in which case you will be subjecting yourself to a deluge of other debilitating syndromes like akrasia, which afflicts the constitution of those that burglar the life affirming creativity of others without the proper compensation exchanging hands.

Maybe everybody knows where this ghost train is heading towards and nobody gives a shit. Do we really want to get the show on the road? Katorga. Laogai. Kwan-Li-So. Lapusnik. Her Majesty’s Maze. Which language do you speak? Because there are words for concentration camp in every language. Oh, we are so soft here in North America. We don’t know ugly things like genocide or “re-education camps” except as an aesthetic through the arts. Our flesh is pale and doughy when poked.

A long digression for the sake of digressions or is there a point to it all?

(I’m scared of the future. The space between seconds on the clock face is being swiped faster every day. Every one of your actions will be prorated and measured. You will even be held accountable for your protestations. Electronically logging in and out with the brush of a thumb, the scan of an iris, a flash over your face. Hourly pay salaried. The forty hour work week dialled back to save the company the costs of a benefit package. Your teeth rot in your skull. You need to see a dentist. The CPU monitor turns bleary. You may need glasses. You work through cold and flu. Your children a liability. Dime them out to the daycare prefects next chance you get. They must learn to shit on command or you will be late for work. They have to understand you are being serious. Avoid their needy gaze. You didn’t ask for them. They were handed to you in a balled bloody vesture. You were pulled into parenthood by barbed piano wire.)

How to read George Saunders and not put a gun in your mouth, or your head in the oven, when all you really want is to laugh a little on the bus ride home and forget about the pile of diarrhea on your desk that is your work, or more insidiously, aka true to life, not scratch that scab on your wrist that will never fully heal, or tongue that canker sore that is eternal like the many many inauspicious, pustular days of your life?

Ha, ha. Got you! No, it’s all good. Ha, ha. Don’t worry. Alas & poor too. Ha, ha. Seriously, Yorick.