Kill the tuna can

Christopher Tayler

  • The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil and In Persuasion Nation by George Saunders
    Bloomsbury, 358 pp, £10.99, June 2006, ISBN 0 7475 8221 1

George Saunders – whose semi-official website carries a reminder that the man who played Addison DeWitt in All about Eve was called George SANDERS – was born in Chicago in 1958. A schoolteacher got him interested in literature, but having been exposed at an impressionable age to the novels of Ayn Rand he ended up studying geophysical engineering: ‘I didn’t want to be one of those life-sucking parasitic artists,’ he recalled last year. During the 1980s he worked for an oil company in Sumatra and did various dead-end jobs before finding his vocation and winning a place at Syracuse University, where he studied creative writing under the auspices of Doug Unger and Tobias Wolff. After finishing the course, he worked as a technical writer and environmental engineer until 1996, when he published his first short-story collection, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. This was praised by Thomas Pynchon as well as Wolff, and since then Saunders has been about as successful as a scrupulous writer of offbeat stories can be. He has returned to the writing-school circuit as a teacher and collected numerous National Magazine and O. Henry Awards. Each story in his second collection, Pastoralia (2000), was first published in the New Yorker.

The full text of this book review is only available to subscribers of the London Review of Books.

You are not logged in