GEORGE SAUNDERS (born 1958) should write novels — or so the story goes. But look what happened to Hemingway: brilliant short story writer, fell into the novel trap and look what we got. (The Sun Also Rises, that fish book, and a bunch of longer, and, like Papa himself, deceptively soft in the middle longer novels.) No, just do what you do, I can take it — bring your Swiftian vengeance to the streets of America and make it funny. I don’t want plot arcs and character development, I want human re-enactment zoos; bulbous, goat-loving shriekers; I want Phil. His essays, while lacking some of David Foster Wallace’s polish, have the same wide-eyed honesty. If questions are sticky, dissonant, we will get the stickiness and dissonance, not the half-witted resolution. His piece on Dubai, which begins looking like a desert version of “A Supposedly Fun Thing” takes a turn here, a twist, and by the end it’s just a mass of twists and turns, a meandering ode to ambivalence.
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