Monday, January 20, 2014

"The Semplica-Girl Diaries" by George Saunders

I don't know when I last read a story that had me so stunned and scratching my head throughout the reading, then so flummoxed, as well as fascinated, thereafter. Oh, and confused, let's not forget confused. Honestly, even hours after I finished this story, I didn't know how to feel about it.

It was the modern-day vibe juxtaposed the odd, futuristic landscaping and the warped logic that persuades these characters to deck out their yards in just such an inhumane way that left me so unsettled.

That, and also I didn't think it was a particularly terrific story, yet it is included in the most recent collection of The Best American Short Stories.

Sure, I'm cool with the futuristic concept, but how, I kept asking myself, in any future, could this happen in an America still nursing the deep wounds of slavery? How could any American population move into a future such as the one Saunders proposes in this story? Impossible, I say, particularly forcefully, on this January 20th when I read the piece, this Martin Luther King Day.

That said, I suppose if we want to use words like alternate reality, well, then, maybe..., but..., nah.

Still, I was intrigued by Saunders' narrator, this father's economic plight, his desires for his family as motivation--so much so that I imagine he'll be with me for at least a few days. And I don't believe I'll ever lose the vision of the Semplicas hanging, in their virgin white gowns, in the yard, much like Atwood's red-hooded handmaids will forever be with me.

So, there's that.

Which makes me wonder: Is that enough to deem a story good, great, best? I wouldn't think so, but maybe, just maybe.... Let me think about it for a while, maybe even a few years, because surely if a story makes such an impression on you that it settles permanently into your brain, that's something.          

Anyway, I know I'm not the only one who had questions after reading this. Here's an interview in The New Yorker, where the story was published, in which Saunders explains himself.

Still, I'd love to know your thoughts on all of this. What did you think of "The Semplica-Girl Diaries" by George Saunders?

George Saunders


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