Thursday, October 18, 2012

"The Semplica-Girl Diaries"

I started reading this George Saunders story in the New Yorker only half-paying attention, initially kind of yawning: "Gawd, another only-mildly humorous midlife-crisis/striving-suburbanite-with-family story, with the schtick that it's told all in diary entries." But then I started coming across (to me) VERY funny passages like this (a spot-on parody of some of my OWN too-earnest blog entries right here!):

"...Note to self: Try to extend positive feelings associated with Scratch-Off win into all areas of life. Be bigger presence at work. Race up ladder (joyfully, w/ smile on face), get raise. Get in best shape of life, start dressing nicer. Learn guitar? Make point of noticing beauty of world? Why not educate self re birds, flowers, trees, constellations, become true citizen of natural world, walk around neighborhood w/ kids, patiently teaching kids names of birds, flowers, etc., etc.? Why not take kids to Europe? Kids have never been. Have never, in Alps, had hot chocolate in mountain café, served by kindly white-haired innkeeper, who finds them so sophisticated/friendly relative to usual snotty/rich American kids (who always ignore his pretty but crippled daughter w/ braids)..."

So I started paying a lot more attention because I was laughing out loud. And then the mentions of the "SGs" started sneaking in; at first I again wasn't quite paying attention so it took a 2nd or 3rd mention to quite snap to what was going on... At the end of the story, I had goosebumps! I just sat there for a second, letting it soak in, and then went back and read it a second time.

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And the below excerpt from an accompanying interview with the author also gave me goosebumps, because I think he put his finger exactly on the frightening sadistic mental undercurrent among the elite in OUR society--the women even against themselves: witness the carving up of faces, boobs, fat-suction, et al. Talk about "aesthetic landscaping"! Though the society in his story is completely imaginary, he assures us!

And Saunders' explanation of his own mental processes while creating the story was also fascinating to read.

Why the microline through the brain, instead of a less invasive harness?

The honest answer is because it was that way in the dream. Part of what moved me about the dream was the extremity of it—it was very unreasonable. And since I was interested in writing the story because of the lingering power of the dream, I was loathe to change the basic terms of the dream—especially in the direction of softening them.

To look at that choice as a reader, instead of a writer: If we imagine two cultures, one in which the residents harness poor foreign women and hang them in their yards, and another one in which they surgically put wires through the heads of poor foreign women in order to hang them up—well, those are two different cultures, and the second one is, I think, more interesting. Why? Because that second culture is more intense. It’s more direct in enacting its desires. It has to be richer (to afford the surgeries); its taste is more refined and strange and perverse/decadent. It is a more demanding, narcissistic culture. It doesn’t like the harness idea because the harnesses would look baggy, the SGs would hang at strange angles—something like that. But another (nastier) difference is that there is an element of complete physical domination/subjugation in the surgical approach that this culture (subconsciously) likes and wants; and that, in turn, says something deep about the lengths to which this (imaginary, I assure you!) culture is willing to go to optimize its aesthetic landscaping choice, i.e., its “pleasure.”

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