Victory Lap by George Saunders, 2009
The magic trick:
The art of the interior monologue
George Saunders is pretty much a genius when it comes to use of the interior monologue. It’s a technique he employs in nearly every story – voicing the character’s thought process to give the reader insight into their decision-making processes; usually revealing a wide range of insecurities to both humorous and heartbreaking effect.
Like yesterday’s SSMT feature, “Puppy,” as well as several other Saunders stories, “Victory Lap” alternates between different characters’ perspectives. The internal monologues here reveal the crucial theme of control. Each character has different strategies to make them feel like they are in some way in control of their life – Allison conjures up schoolgirl fantasies, Kyle sneaks curse words under the veil of his private thoughts, and the kidnapper lashes out at various authority figures from his past, desperately trying to rationalize his heinous acts. We get rich back stories for each character in very little writing – all due to the brilliantly sketched internal monologues. And that’s quite a trick on Saunders’s part.
Swearing in your head? Dad said in his head. Step up, Scout, be a man. If you want to swear, swear aloud.
I don’t want to swear aloud.
Then don’t swear in your head.
Mom and Dad would be heartsick if they could hear the swearing he sometimes did in his head, such as crap-cunt shit-turd dick-in-the-ear butt-creamery. Why couldn’t he stop doing that? They thought so highly of him, sending weekly braggy e-mails to both sets of grandparents, such as: Kyle’s been super-busy keeping up his grades while running varsity cross-country though still a sophomore, while setting aside a little time each day to manufacture such humdingers as cunt-swoggle rear-fuck—
What was wrong with him? Why couldn’t he be grateful for all that Mom and Dad did for him, instead of—
Cornhole the ear-cunt.
Flake-fuck the pale vestige with a proddering dick-knee.
You could always clear the mind with a hard pinch on your own minimal love handle.