In which George Saunders is the funniest writer alive, again.

George Saunders writes about his recent trip to Britain in the Guardian. An excerpt:

The first thing I did in England was travel to a town called Hay, the site of a big literary festival. Hay is known as The Town Of Books, because it has approximately 14,000 used book shops. The cars are all shaped like books and all of their food is book-shaped and the women wear a special perfume that smells like old musty books and all of the dogs are named “Baudelaire”.

One of the principles of science is that one can, by the careful study of a small data set, form generalised conclusions about a larger population. Based on my observation of the British at Hay, I concluded that the British: 1) are all from London, 2) are extremely literate, and 3) are almost always drunk. It was hard to find a Briton at Hay who was not from London and was not either reading or drunk, or both – ie, reading while drunk. Also, the British in Hay are extremely smart. Based on the quality of my conversations with the British at the Hay Festival, I was forced to conclude that the British are even more intelligent, literary and articulate than us Americans! I know my American readers will find this hard to believe, if they have even made it this far, due to all my big words I have been using. However, my fellow Americans, do not feel bad about our relative stupidity; I have concluded that the British are more intelligent, literary and articulate than us simply because they spend more time reading and studying and reflecting on the world than we do. No doubt if we Americans spent as much time reading, studying and thoughtfully reflecting as the British, we would be every bit as intelligent, literary and articulate as them. But we have better things to do, such as getting more money, and calling in our votes for American’s Sexiest Food-Obsessed Midgets, and keeping the world safe from democracy. Or, should I say, safe for democracy. Whatever. What am I, some kind of language scientist or wordologist or whatnot?

Seriously, I don’t know why you’re not over there reading the rest of it yet. Git!

9 thoughts on “In which George Saunders is the funniest writer alive, again.

  1. Okay, I am going to own up to my nerdiness. We played the “dictionary game” at home a lot, a game in which you try to fake out the other team with definitions for obscure words (Do you listen to Says You! on NPR?)

    My family, in 1989-ish, banned British dictionaries from the game. Because Brits are weird. Smart, maybe, but they have weird definitions.

    • I used to play that game with my coworkers when I was a copyeditor for Avon Cosmetics. It’s amazing we summoned the intellectual energy after hours of such strenuous labor as pointing out that “eyeshadow” is always one word, unless you are talking about an actual shadow cast by an eye in a beam of light, and that lotions cannot “absorb quickly,” unless, of course, the lotion actually sucks the skin into itself at a rapid pace.

  2. Seth Stevenson is way more funny and far more intellectual. For a brit, that guy uses really blue collar language, I mean, West Virginia coal miner vocabulary instead of classic British intellectual language.

    • For a British paper I mean.

      Seth Stevenson:

      http://www.slate.com/id/2000125/
      http://www.slate.com/id/2117900/entry/2117904/
      http://www.slate.com/id/2143810/
      http://www.slate.com/id/2091577/

      “At the start line, the kid’s unorthodox, cobbled-together car gets snickered at. When the race begins, the other kids—in sleek, low-to-ground soapbox racers—speed down the winding pavement. The Hummer kid—in his big-wheeled contraption—veers off-road, cuts straight across all the switchbacks, careens back onto the pavement at the last instant, and crosses the finish line first.”

      “Analysis: This is an incredibly well made ad. I hate it.

      The music is the Who’s “Happy Jack,” which is sort of a brilliant choice. On one level, the song tugs at boomers who rocked out to it in the ’60s. But there’s an ancillary target: The tune’s stripped-down, British Invasion sound would fit right in on the Rushmore soundtrack, giving it some resonance with a younger crowd. (Rushmore actually used a different Who song from the same album.)

      For sheer entertainment value, this is a fantastic commercial. Visually arresting. Engrossing narrative. (And an unexpectedly wussy, un-Hummer-y art-house pedigree: It was directed by the guy who did Shine, and the ad’s cinematographer worked on Amélie.) Plus, of course, the kick-ass Who song. My problem is with its underlying ethics.

      1. The Hummer kid cheats. Yes, the company’s Web site offers “thinking outside the box” justifications, pointing out that the race rules are just “First one down wins.” But I don’t buy it. He fails to stay on a clearly demarcated course. In my book, that’s an automatic DQ. Anyway, the off-road driving didn’t even look that treacherous—I bet the regular cars could have handled it, too, if their drivers were little cheating brats. Were I the other kids, I would have ripped the wheels off the soapbox Hummer and beat the cheater about the head with them. ”

      ^_____^

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