Civilwarland in Bad Decline by George Saunders, Cape pounds 9.99.
Sunday 24 March 1996
Within this would-be world, Saunders sets out the mess of feeling both tender and ferocious, making sweetness and horror ricochet off each other. In "Isabelle", a racist cop devotedly cares for his paraplegic deaf-mute daughter, until a vengeful shotgun blast kills him - but there is redemption to come. In "Offloading for Mrs Schwartz", a porn-simulator grieves for his dead wife, until he finds an altruistic use for suicide. In an early- America theme park haunted by the ghosts of its dead owners and by real- life gangs, the narrator records his own violent end: "Possessing perfect knowledge I hover above him as he hacks me to bits. I see his rough childhood. I see his mother doing something horrid to him with a broomstick. I see the hate in his heart and the people he has yet to kill ..."
If it were less inventive, Saunders's invention might become tiresome. His emotionalism, too, could topple over into sentimentality if he didn't constantly employ violence as a treacle-cutter. In both areas, however, this fascinating writer comes close to the edge and just about gets away with it.
'At times I thought he was me'film
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Film More romcom than S&M
Review: The Imitation Gamefilm
Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars
TVNetflix gets cryptic
TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth
Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Universities aren't working us hard enough, say undergraduates
- 2 Lego letter from the 1970s still offers a powerful message to parents 40 years later
- 3 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 5 Grayson Perry: London needs affordable housing because 'rich people don't create culture'
Strictly Come Dancing 2014 results: Steve Backshall and Ola Jordan sent home
Iggy Azalea responds to Eminem rape lyrics: 'I'm bored of old men threatening young women'
British culture 'flatlining' as funds dwindle, says academic
Tom DeLonge compares streaming music to killing elephants
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage from Lana Del Rey rape video
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Rochester aftermath: Sacking of Emily Thornberry will make work of Labour MPs '10 times harder'
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services