A Brother in Style?

Courtesy David Shankbone.

There’s a shout-out on one of the preliminary, “rave reviews for the author” pages in George Saunders’ Tenth of December from David Foster Wallace, which expresses the late great writer’s admiration for Saunders’ work. After having devoured this volume, I find the inclusion of DFW’s quote entirely apt, not only because the book is just plain solid and deserves to be praised, but also due to the fact that I see a certain kinship in the two guys’ writing: the way they deliver a story, the way in which an everyday conversational style acts as the vehicle for mind-blowing outcomes.

Take “The Semplica Girl Diaries,” for example. The first time I read it, in The New Yorker, I was astounded at the way the narrative moved from casual chuckles at the protagonist’s slightly goofy, if well-intentioned, passage through life, to an alarming end in which said protagonist has become aware of just what such an earnest, if blinkered, approach to existence might lead to. I was left with the same feeling– of not having seen any of the dread coming, and of awe at how the hell the author pulled that off– that I experienced upon finishing DF Wallace’s “Oblivion.”

Too, there’s a shared ability to understand the logical conclusions of contemporary absurdities, from medicalizing humanity to marketing (someday, I’ll look more closely into the contrasts and similarities between, say, “Escape from Spiderhead” and “My Chivalric Fiasco” and DFW’s “Mister Squishy” and Infinite Jest).

But I don’t want to allege that one author is or was imitating the other, or that each could be the other. Nope; the pieces each man writes/wrote is definitely his and not the other’s. I would have liked to have witnessed a conversation between the two, though, to see if any personal affinity, rivalry, or anything else were present. For now, though, I relish the prospect of diving into all the other Saunders tales I’ve been missing out on– and seeing whether, after I’ve imbibed all that reading, my initial vision of authorial kinship still holds.

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