Saturday, January 02, 2010


I am halfway through The Great War by Les Carlyon - it is wonderful, and I recommend it highly as an Australian history of the Western Front. Carlyon believes Gallipoli has received disproportionate attention, at the expense of massive tragedies that happened later in France, such as Fromelles, Poziéres, and Bullecourt. The story is grim but the characters are sketched very clearly and the time is evoked very well. Although the soldiers in the trenches were using all kinds of new technology, the top Allied generals were all old cavalry men. They never stopped hoping that a big gap could be forced in the opposing lines so division after division of cavalry could gallop through gloriously.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I've been waiting ages for a George Saunders book at the libary, and today I picked it up. I tore through it in an afternoon - brilliant sharp funny writing. It's titled The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil. That is the name of a novella that takes up half the pages, the rest is a collection of short stories called In Persuasion Nation. His imagination is limitless and his anger is bright and hard - a great combination. Here is an excerpt:
Abe Lincoln stands giving the Gettysburg Address. Everyone is rapt, except for one guy in the front row, who keeps raising his hand and hopping up and down in his seat.

"Did you have a question, sir?" Lincoln says.

"Wendy's GrandeChickenBoatCombo," the man says.

"That's not a question," Lincoln says.

"Wendy's GrandeChickenBoatCombo?" the man says.

"I'm afraid I am unable to discern your purpose, sir," Lincoln says. "I am trying to pay tribute to the brave men who died here."

"Pay tribute to this, beardo-weirdo!" says the man, and presses a button on his chest, and suddenly is transformed into a giant GrandeChickenBoatCombo; that is, a giant synthetic chicken product shaped like a frigate, with oars made of celery, and wafer-thin nacho sails.

Then the GrandeChickenBoatCombo beats its wings and its sails and floats up around Lincoln's head, knocking his top hat off, spraying him with salsa from its Mini-Salsa Cannons©.

"Anybody else think a great-tasting poultry-nautical treat is loads more fun than this old fuddy?" says the GrandeChickenBoatCombo.

"I do," says General Grant.

"Me too," says Harriet Tubman.

"We totally agree!" say the ghosts of several Union dead.

"Sandwiches for all!" says the GrandeChickenBoatCombo. "Great taste is what made America great!"

"Not a bunch of yappin'!" says Mrs. Lincoln.
This is from the short story titled In Persuasion Nation that gave its name to the collection that formed the second half of the book. Sigh. I never said it was simple. For some reason that story can be read in it's entirety here.

No comments: