A Mechanized Culture and its Equally Mechanical Population Meet

When the clones come to harvest our organs, they will speak to us like George Saunders—swiftly, smoothly, proffering bits of Pop-Tarts. The synthesized flow of their voices, combined with the promise of extra filling, will persuade us to lie back on their tables and focus—happily, productively—on what they say, not what they do.

Saunders has made a career out of hot-wiring himself to machines—the former engineer attaches fingers to the keyboard and spews out reams of tripped-out data on the intersection of a mechanized culture and its equally mechanical population. Those data, in turn, become the source material of some of the slickest, most relentlessly satirical stories yet produced on this planet. In his latest collection—In Persuasion Nation (Riverhead, April)—teenagers interned in a terminal focus group, the deranged star of a Truman Show screenplay, scientists, and product specialists speak, with disarming fluency, the language of the commercial voiceover artist in residence inside all our brains. The real question of the moment, as one character puts it, is "Well Who Will Be There, Will There Be Cakes?"

Do you take your cultural parody with or without sugar? As the platitudes the authorities feed us diminish in already wafer-thin logic, Saunders nearly takes leave of narrative—immersing his stories, instead, in the chocolate-covered nonsense of corporate and political speech. While previous works in this millennium— Pastoralia and The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil—consisted of tightly wound parables, Persuasion lets loose a series of hysterically smooth-talking voices. They hawk prosthetic baby faces; legislate the slaughter of dogs, cats, and primates; and recount Teddy Graham commercials as the sincerest professions of love. Their lesson, Saunders suggests, is that truth exists in inverse relation to eloquence—or so, at least, he says.

George Saunders or a clone?
photo: Caitlin Saunders
George Saunders or a clone?

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  • Saunders reads from In Persuasion Nation on April 27 at Barnes & Noble, 33 East 17th Street, 212-253-0810.


    Listings by Kosiya Shalita

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    March 27

    Barnes & Noble, 4 Astor Pl, 212-420-1322

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    Marilyn Johnson
    April 4

    KGB Bar, 85 E 4th, 212-505-3360

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    Stephen McCauley
    April 5

    Barnes & Noble, 675 Sixth Ave, 212-727-1227

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    Coliseum Books, 11 W 42nd, 212-803-5890

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    Chris Kraus
    April 15

    Miguel Abreu Gallery, 36 Orchard, 212-995-1774

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    Rich Cohen
    April 25

    Barnes & Noble, 675 Sixth Ave, 212-727-1227

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    A.M. Homes
    April 27

    Barnes & Noble, 2289 Bway, 212-362-8835

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