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George Saunders

March 7, 2013

The first paragraph of “Puppy” by George Saunders feels very self-aware. It uses the phrase, “the brilliance of the autumnal sun on the perfect field of corn” in repetition, but each time uses less of it until it is transformed into “the brilliance of the etc. etc.”

I got bored around the time the video game the Noble Baker was being used as a metaphor, if that’s what it was. They are on a road trip, I think? Words like “gosh” and “wow” do something to me, when I read them, like “gee willikers” which does not occur in this story, have a kind of backwards, outdated effect. Like, corny.

I kind of started hating the haha’s because I don’t like overt humor. Or being told that something is supposed to be funny because then it usually is not. And maybe intentionally saying haha ironically. “Marie realized… that what this really was, was deeply sad.”

The story seemed to stumble into poignancy reluctantly. “Life will not necessarily always be like this. Your life could suddenly blossom into something wonderful.” Maybe the reader is supposed to hate Marie who brushes aside her only attempt at sympathy with “blah blah blah — that was all bullshit.”

And then at the end, focusing back on the woman selling the puppy and the thoughts she was having about love, turning the story over to what it should have been all along. This was the first time the story was interesting to me, this final 500-word section.

One of the questions Tao Lin poses for his class is the motive of the author for writing the story. And, to me, it almost seems like George Saunders didn’t want to write this story at all. I haven’t read many of his stories, so I don’t know if this is stylistic, but he seems to be writing an anti-story, a story that is set against itself.

It is not just the plot which is unremarkable or the characters who are unadmirable, but the prose itself which seems to undermine its own commemoration.

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