Monday, April 10, 2017

Ninth Post



Saunders has a good premise: the voices used by civil war documentaries to read letters etc. are ghosts, who float around and have their own objectives re: their dead stories

So he (Saunders) can intermingle ghost-speak with actual civil war quotes and it's all peachy

Combine this with the pathos of Lincoln with a dead kid and you're good: this is the first half of the book


George Saunders doesn't know how to do the second half of a novel-length book, so he has the ghosts physically struggle with one another over the soul of dead Willie Lincoln

So the documentary-voice thing is used to display action scenes between metaphysical entities

Thus "ghost karate": we're seeing spiritual beings interact combatically as if they had physical constraints

But the wider issue is, why are we seeing this? Why aren't the concerns of the living as they ripple out thru the dead the focus? It's premises is to be a story about grief... Saunders falls back disastrously into physical struggle (between ghosts)

Simillarly the resolution of all the ghost's stories is missing something, I guess it assumes that I love these ghost characters

What I love is the Lincoln guy who isn't in La La Land and is dealing with real historic grief, the props of spirits being a means to creatively interact with that humanity

Basically the metaphysical premises is forgotten and wasted


We should have seen Mary Todd Lincoln's death also and the compounding f/x on Abe

I don't know why the whole action had to happen in one evening... Feels rushed and overpacked

Instead of physical action resolving all this (we need to push the boy-ghost into  lincoln's body) there should have been some larger spiritual resolution*

*there was a spiritual resolution also, but I'm saying there shouldn't have been a physical one; the spiritual resolution should have brought the overall resolution

Lincoln's crisis of conciousness re: the civil war should have been played out over a longer timespan to have more development(??)

Saunders shouldn't have mistaken his characters for cute personalities who all need a beginning middle and end and instead have used them provisionally, as per their usefulness**

**the book is actually shockingly amateur at times because of this: story becomes about cutesy ghost character arcs instead of... something better like the mind of lincoln... or idk the war


George Saunders is a master of putting prose together

With a few simple strokes he constructs interesting and familiar character settings

So: a civil war grave of ghosts, civilwarland (in bad decline), even the mind of a wimpy kidnapper

Famously he is able to put corporate culture pop psychology in the mouth of slavers... "Satirist" indeed...

But he doesn't have the heart to write 2 stories for one novel... he can only write "one story"

Like the telling of a joke, all the characters here conclude at the punchline... there is no "second act"

So "Lincoln in the Bardo" is an extremelly excellent novella with like a reptillian no-worky second book. I would call it a shame but I love to tear down authors. I'm a monster. 2 stars