I don’t like your Puppy, George Saunders. Will you marry me?*
*George Saunders is married and so am I so I don’t really want to marry him so much as eat his brains and absorb the fatty genius within. But not until he writes a million more stories.
I can wait.
Sometimes, when we are short on material in my writing class, Jim assigns short stories. We’ve read everything from Melville to Kelly Link. The last story he assigned was Puppy, by George Saunders.
I read it at a coffee shop, shortly before class. I didn’t like it. But I did love it. I read it again. I read the last page of the previous story that was included in the PDF, Sticks. I Googled Sticks and read the whole thing. (It’s short, some call it a prose poem, I just call it fantastic). I read interviews with Saunders, and there are plenty, because as it turns out, I’m not the only one who lost my mind over his work… (George Saunders Just Wrote The Best Book You’ll Read This Year) (file under: things I am an ignoramus about because I don’t read much literary fiction) …until I started accidentally spoilering myself. So then I broke my cardinal rule of no-online-purchases-in-public and bought Tenth of December: Stories, and read until I was five minutes late for class.
Why do I love a story I don’t like? Well, Puppy isn’t a feel-good story. It’s a revealing story, on just about every level one can mean that. It’s told by two different women, who both reveal how phony they are in their opening paragraphs. By the end of Puppy, I despised them equally. But I also pitied them equally. And I saw myself in them, even though I do not share their troubles or believe in their solutions.
I have love/hated antiheroes and antagonists by the score. But never has the mirror been held up so deftly. This is you and me and all of us, Saunders says with Puppy. And it is the pits, and it is genius, and it is comedy black as tar. The tar-black genius pits. I didn’t like it and I had to have more. Some of his work will crush you. Some of it will fill you with light until you feel yourself rising from your seat. All of it will move you, even the things you don’t understand.
I am a certified Saunderholic. Try him and see.