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Pastoralia
Cover of Pastoralia
Pastoralia
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A stunning collection including the story "Sea Oak," from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Man Booker Prize-winning novel Lincoln in the Bardo and the story collection Tenth of December, a 2013 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction.
Hailed by Thomas Pynchon as "graceful, dark, authentic, and funny," George Saunders gives us, in his inventive and beloved voice, this bestselling collection of stories set against a warped, hilarious, and terrifyingly recognizable American landscape.

Includes an Original Song by the Author 
“Pastoralia” was written and performed by George Saunders, and recorded, mixed, and mastered by Peter Coleman at Indigital Studios in Santa Cruz, California.

A stunning collection including the story "Sea Oak," from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Man Booker Prize-winning novel Lincoln in the Bardo and the story collection Tenth of December, a 2013 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction.
Hailed by Thomas Pynchon as "graceful, dark, authentic, and funny," George Saunders gives us, in his inventive and beloved voice, this bestselling collection of stories set against a warped, hilarious, and terrifyingly recognizable American landscape.

Includes an Original Song by the Author 
“Pastoralia” was written and performed by George Saunders, and recorded, mixed, and mastered by Peter Coleman at Indigital Studios in Santa Cruz, California.

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Excerpts-
  • From the cover 1.

    I have to admit I’m not feeling my best. Not that I’m doing so bad. Not that I really have anything to complain about. Not that I would actually verbally complain if I did have something to complain about. No. Because I’m Thinking Positive/Saying Positive. I’m sitting back on my haunches, waiting for people to poke in their heads. Although it’s been thirteen days since anyone poked in their head and Janet’s speaking English to me more and more, which is partly why I feel so, you know, crummy.

    “Jeez,” she says first thing this morning. “I’m so tired of roast goat I could scream.”

    What am I supposed to say to that? It puts me in a bad spot. She thinks I’m a goody-goody and that her speaking English makes me uncomfortable. And she’s right. It does. Because we’ve got it good. Every morning, a new goat, just killed, sits in our Big Slot. In our Little Slot, a book of matches. That’s better than some. Some are required to catch wild hares in snares. Some are required to wear pioneer garb while cutting the heads off chickens. But not us. I just have to haul the dead goat out of the Big Slot and skin it with a sharp flint. Janet just has to make the fire. So things are pretty good. Not as good as in the old days, but then again, not so bad.

    In the old days, when heads were constantly poking in, we liked what we did. Really hammed it up. Had little grunting fights. Whenever I was about to toss a handful of dirt in her face I’d pound a rock against a rock in rage. That way she knew to close her eyes. Sometimes she did this kind of crude weaving. It was like: Roots of Weaving. Some-times we’d go down to Russian Peasant Farm for a barbecue, I remember there was Murray and Leon, Leon was dating Eileen, Eileen was the one with all the cats, but now, with the big decline in heads poking in, the Russian Peasants are all elsewhere, some to Administration but most not, Eileen’s cats have gone wild, and honest to God sometimes I worry I’ll go to the Big Slot and find it goatless.

    2.

    This morning I go to the Big Slot and find it goatless. Instead of a goat there’s a note:

    Hold on, hold on, it says. The goat’s coming, for crissake. Don’t get all snooty.

    The problem is, what am I supposed to do during the time when I’m supposed to be skinning the goat with the flint? I decide to pretend to be desperately ill. I rock in a corner and moan. This gets old. Skinning the goat with the flint takes the better part of an hour. No way am I rocking and moaning for an hour.

    Janet comes in from her Separate Area and her eyebrows go up.

    “No freaking goat?” she says.

    I make some guttural sounds and some motions meaning: Big rain come down, and boom, make goats run, goats now away, away in high hills, and as my fear was great, I did not follow.

    Janet scratches under her armpit and makes a sound like a monkey, then lights a cigarette.

    “What a bunch of shit,” she says. “Why you insist, I’ll never know. Who’s here? Do you see anyone here but us?”

    I gesture to her to put out the cigarette and make the fire. She gestures to me to kiss her butt.

    “Why am I making a fire?” she says. “A fire in advance of a goat. Is this like a wishful fire? Like a hopeful fire? No, sorry, I’ve had it. What would I do in the real world if there was thunder and so on and our goats actually ran away? Maybe I’d mourn, like cut myself with that flint, or maybe I’d kick your ass for being so stupid as to leave the goats out in the rain. What, they didn’t put it in the...

About the Author-
  • GEORGE SAUNDERS is the author of nine books, including the New York Times bestsellers Congratulations, by the way and Tenth of December, an essay collection, The Braindead Megaphone, and the critically acclaimed collections CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, Pastoralia, and In Persuasion Nation. In 2006, he was awarded a MacArthur fellowship. He teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Syracuse University.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from May 1, 2000
    Saunders's extraordinary talent is in top form in his second collection (after CivilWarLand in Bad Decline), in which his vision of a hellishly (and hopefully) exaggerated dystopia of late capitalist America is warmed and impassioned by his regular, irregular and flat-out wacky characters. Merging the spirit of James Thurber with the world of the Simpsons, Saunders's five stories and title novella feature protagonists who are losers yet also innocent dreamers: in "Winky," a single guy lives with his sister but hopes to improve his life with his new self-help cult's mantra, "Now is the time for me to win!" The tales pit bleak existences with details so contemporary they're futuristic, as in "Pastoralia," where the narrator is a "re-enactor" who lives in a cave as part of an exhibit in the Pastoralia theme park. Authenticity demands that he speak no English, pretend to draw pictographs on the wall and eat goat. His cave partner, Janet, is driving him crazy, because she uses English, smokes and hates goat; meanwhile, the clumsy, bullying management leans on the narrator to testify against her. In "Sea Oak," the narrator is a beleaguered male stripper who lives with his Aunt Bernie and two other relatives, both clueless, young single mothers whose dialogue consists of trashy talk-show vernacular. They eke out their lives in foggy complacency until the pathetically passive Bernie dies and comes back to life to boss around the household: "I never got nothing! My life was shit! I was never even up in a freaking plane." These characters may not have much, but they do possess the author's compassion, and so are enigmas of decency enshrouded in dark, TV-hobbled dumbness. Saunders, with a voice unlike any other writer's, makes these losers funny, plausible and absolutely winning.

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Pastoralia
George Saunders
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