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.
Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with 'topics' as country reforms its education system
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 4 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
- 5 Zayn Malik quits One Direction: Hundreds of workers request compassionate leave following band member's exit
Jeremy Clarkson to host BBC's Have I Got News For You despite Top Gear exit
A historian gave the most British look of despair when someone screwed up Richard III's birthday at his reburial
Zayn Malik already working on solo material, just days after quitting One Direction
Kay Burley 'bias' against Ed Miliband prompts 130 complaints to Ofcom
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Germanwings plane crash live: Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz wanted to 'do something people would remember him for'