‘Exhortation’ by George Saunders

Saunders, George 2000

Exhortation by George Saunders, 2000

The magic trick:

E-mail format

Well, it ain’t no Where’d You Go, Bernadette? To be fair, this little epistolarian pistol pre-dates Maria Semples’ similarly e-mail-driven novel by more than 10 years. Anyway, it’s just not that good; certainly not when nestled between some of the best short stories of the century as it is in Tenth Of December. In some ways, it’s the flip side of Saunders’ story, “Escape From Spiderhead,” this time told from the point of view of the evil corporation. The format ­– a mass email memo – is effective if predictable. The boss is an oblivious, hypocritical micro-manager. I laughed a couple of times. And that’s quite a trick on Saunders’s part.

The selection:

So what am I saying? I am saying (and saying it fervently, because it is important): Let’s try, if we can, to minimize the grumbling and self-doubt regarding the tasks we must sometimes do around here that maybe aren’t on the surface all that pleasant. I’m saying let’s try not to dissect every single thing we do in terms of ultimate good/bad/indifferent in terms of morals. The time for that is long past.

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