Empathy in satire
One of the premier pleasures of reading is discovering a new author. My most recent discovery is short story writer George Saunders. Saunders teaches creative writing at Syracuse University and has published stories in Harper’s, GQ and especially the New Yorker. His stories have been gathered into four collections: CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, Pastoralia, In Persuasion Nation and Tenth of December.
Saunders’s tales are set in the present or near future. In the earliest stories, a recurring setting is a theme park where workers struggle to survive on minimum wage. Saunders explores their lives with an often comic touch. He even has an eye for the difficulties of faith in such a setting.
“The Wavemaker Falters” features a water park situated near an institution for those with religious vocations who have lost their faith. “Halfway up the mountain it’s the Center for Wayward Nuns, full of sisters and other religious personnel who’ve become doubtful. Once a few of them came down to our facility in stern suits and swam cautiously. The singing from up there never exactly knocks your socks off. It’s a very conditional singing, probably because of all the doubt. A young nun named Sister Viv came unglued there last fall and we gave her a free season pass to come down and meditate near our simulated Spanish trout stream whenever she wanted. The head nun said Viv was from Idaho and sure enough the stream seemed to have a calming effect.”