‘Elliott Spencer’ by George Saunders

Elliott Spencer by George Saunders, 2019

The magic trick:

Reaching for pure earnest emotion

It’s always exciting to get a new George Saunders story, but I have to admit that thrill started to fade as I went through the first half of this one.

Its mysteriously troubling future where our protagonists are forced to confront and compromise their sense of ethics felt to me like a tired variation on his previous stories like “Jon” or “Escape From Spiderhead.”

Interesting stuff? Absolutely. But it was hard not to feel a little let down by the seeming redundancy from Saunders.

I kept reading of course and soon found that I was way off base with that assessment. This story does not repeat Saunders’s previous work. Not at all. This is different.

The setting might be similar to those previous works. But “Elliott Spencer” takes dystopian fiction and reaches for a closing scene of Dickensian emotion. It’s that reach; that fearless earnestness that stakes out new territory here. The reach is bold. Executing it as this story does is the stuff of genius.

And that’s quite a trick on Saunders’s part.

The selection:

Today is: Job Three Per Jer: Real biggie.

Real biggie = more big than anything yet in terms of our standing for poor and sick, defending weak from oppressors.

Job Three Site is in wild grass field Where per Jer, Indians once started up there, on hill, then swept whooping down, past here.

Up there, now (from where, long ago, Indians started down): ChickenFuego.

I could go for some of that, says Supervisor Marty.

More BastardTurdCreepIdiots than ever before Jer nervous Marty nervous All Supervisors nervous Police nervous.

Hey, check this out, says Marty. Is that a frigging arrowhead?

Bends to get.

Ugh, stupid regular rock, says Mart.

Throws at phonepole.

Uh-oh, says Jer.


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