Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Go Read it Now: "Home" by George Saunders

It’s that time of year again! The double fiction summer issue of The New Yorker is up/on newsstands. Rejoice! Or sob! Because at one time The New Yorker published more than one piece of fiction per issue and people besides Alice Munro stood a chance! (Or we could pretend we stood a chance, anyway.)

Related PSA: I’m probably not the only dolt who has done this, but it you key in you get a different website altogether (vs And it is a website that looks like it was designed in 1986.


I highly recommend “Home” by George Saunders, which is in this 2011 Summer Fiction issue.

Reasons you should read it:

1. From a craft perspective, it's a wonderful model of a story told almost entirely through dialogue, which is so hard to do well. Of course, Saunders does it well.

2. You will find yourself sympathetic with narrator, who is home from “the war” in the Middle East, until his perspective becomes really unsettling. And then you find yourself uncomfortable and confused. I really like when art that does this to me.

3. New fiction about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are so important. There are so many shell-shocked, wounded, young veterans out there with a dizzying array of perspectives about their experience.

George Saunders talked about this story with The New Yorker and why these stories need to be told.

In the interview he says,

I don’t really know enough to argue for or against these particular wars. But I do smell a rat in the way we think and talk about war. We underestimate it. And we do this in part because war, for the vast majority of us, is, or feels, free.
His protagonist in "Home" is certainly not free, nor are the people around him. And I believe Saunders' work puts a spotlight on any one of us who walks around believing that we are free from the war just because we haven't served in it ourselves.

4. Did you know our very own Josh Campbell interviewed George Saunders in the Winter 2007 issue of Our Stories? Check it out here.

If you're interested in other compelling stories about modern stories, read "Tits Up in a Ditch" by Annie Proulx. This one has stuck in my mind ever since The New Yorker published it in 2008.

I leave you with this:

Jesse Golby, who teaches writing at the US Naval Academy, wrote a post for us in April where he touched on the ways literature and soldiering intersect.

One of the things he had to way was this:

Everyday I struggle with the knowledge that my students will be culpable in the destruction of lives or property. He or she might not be the one dropping the bomb, but at a minimum they'll work in the chain that allows that bomb to drop. I also know that our military doesn't pick our wars, but is responsible for carrying them out. There are things worth fighting for. We all know this. But nothing is certain, and causes and morality and pursuits and politics make "defense of our country" tricky. How then, do we foster moral men and women that are willing to bring to bear our instruments of power in an uncertain world? How does literature fit into this?

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