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Liberation Day
Cover of Liberation Day
Liberation Day
Stories
MacArthur "genius" and Booker Prize winner George Saunders returns with a collection of short stories that make sense of our increasingly troubled world, his first since the New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist Tenth of December
The “best short story writer in English” (Time) is back with a masterful collection that explores ideas of power, ethics, and justice, and cuts to the very heart of what it means to live in community with our fellow humans. With his trademark prose—wickedly funny, unsentimental, and perfectly tuned—Saunders continues to challenge and surprise: here is a collection of prismatic, deeply resonant stories that encompass joy and despair, oppression and revolution, bizarre fantasy and brutal reality.
 
“Love Letter” is a tender missive from grandfather to grandson, in the midst of a dystopian political situation in the not-too-distant future, that reminds us of our obligations to our ideals, ourselves, and each other. “Ghoul” is set in a Hell-themed section of an underground amusement park in Colorado, and follows the exploits of a lonely, morally complex character named Brian, who comes to question everything he takes for granted about his “reality.” In “Mother’s Day,” two women who loved the same man come to an existential reckoning in the middle of a hailstorm. And in “Elliott Spencer,” our eighty-nine-year-old protagonist finds himself brainwashed—his memory “scraped”—a victim of a scheme in which poor, vulnerable people are reprogrammed and deployed as political protesters.
 
Together, these nine subversive, profound, and essential stories coalesce into a case for viewing the world with the same generosity and clear-eyed attention as Saunders does, even in the most absurd of circumstances.
Cover painting: René Magritte, Man in a Bowler Hat, 1964 (detail), © 2022 C. Herscovici/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
MacArthur "genius" and Booker Prize winner George Saunders returns with a collection of short stories that make sense of our increasingly troubled world, his first since the New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist Tenth of December
The “best short story writer in English” (Time) is back with a masterful collection that explores ideas of power, ethics, and justice, and cuts to the very heart of what it means to live in community with our fellow humans. With his trademark prose—wickedly funny, unsentimental, and perfectly tuned—Saunders continues to challenge and surprise: here is a collection of prismatic, deeply resonant stories that encompass joy and despair, oppression and revolution, bizarre fantasy and brutal reality.
 
“Love Letter” is a tender missive from grandfather to grandson, in the midst of a dystopian political situation in the not-too-distant future, that reminds us of our obligations to our ideals, ourselves, and each other. “Ghoul” is set in a Hell-themed section of an underground amusement park in Colorado, and follows the exploits of a lonely, morally complex character named Brian, who comes to question everything he takes for granted about his “reality.” In “Mother’s Day,” two women who loved the same man come to an existential reckoning in the middle of a hailstorm. And in “Elliott Spencer,” our eighty-nine-year-old protagonist finds himself brainwashed—his memory “scraped”—a victim of a scheme in which poor, vulnerable people are reprogrammed and deployed as political protesters.
 
Together, these nine subversive, profound, and essential stories coalesce into a case for viewing the world with the same generosity and clear-eyed attention as Saunders does, even in the most absurd of circumstances.
Cover painting: René Magritte, Man in a Bowler Hat, 1964 (detail), © 2022 C. Herscovici/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
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Excerpts-
  • From the cover Liberation Day

    It is third day of Interim.

    A rather long Interim, for us.

    All day we wonder: When will Mr. U. return? To Podium? Are the Untermeyers (Mr. U., Mrs. U., adult son Mike) pleased? If so, why? If not, why not? When next will we be asked to Speak? Of what, in what flavor?

    We wonder avidly. Though not aloud. For there may be Penalty. One may be unPinioned before the eyes of the upset others and brought to a rather Penalty Area. (Here at the Untermeyers’, a shed in the yard.) In Penalty, one sits in the dark among shovels. One may talk. But cannot Speak. How could one? To enjoy the particular exhilaration of Speaking, one must be Pinioned. To the Speaking Wall.

    Otherwise, one speaks like this.

    As I am speaking to you now.

    Plain, uninspired, nothing of beauty about it.

    Hearing Mr. U. coming down the hall, we wonder: Might tonight be Company?

    But no. Soon, we find, it is mere Rehearsal. Mr. U.’s intention: to jam.

    “Ted, where are you, what are you doing?” Mrs. U. inquires in the angry voice from elsewhere in the house.

    “In the Listening Room,” he says. “Jamming.”

    “Oh, for Lord’s sake,” she says.

    It is a special feeling one gets when Mr. U. has sent your Pulse but it has not fully arrived. Like a pre-dreaming or déjà vu is how Craig and Lauren and I have described it on those rare occasions when, risking Penalty, we have spoken among ourselves. Once the Pulse is fully upon you, here will come your words, not intended by, but nevertheless flowing through, you, built, as it were, upon the foundation that is you, supercharged by the Pulse, molded to the chosen Topic, such that, if Mr. U. has dialed in, say, Nautical, whoever he has chosen to go first will suddenly begin Speaking of things Nautical in his or her own flavor, but far more compellingly than he or she could if unPinioned. Mr. U., jamming, may choose to have all of us Speak of Nautical simultaneously; in a whisper or quite loud; may Pan right to left (from Craig to Lauren to me, per our current Arrangement), each of us, in turn, putting his or her own spin on Nautical.

    Tonight I feel the pre-dreaming/déjà vu feeling and then, Across the slick vast field of the main deck aslant with the latest breaker, I find myself calling out, amid a positive Babel of shouted voices in manifold accents and dialects, hoary hands grip and release rainslick masts as the rain pounds crosswise the darkwood deck veined by ancient ropes greenish with mold beneath the booted feet racing to address a faltering knot or stay as each lad wonders will he live out the storm or come to claustrophobic choking end sinking deep to expire in the watery Jones locker with the many-tentacled abyss creatures of the—

    Even as I am Speaking, I am aware of looks of pity, of commiseration, from Craig and Lauren, looks that seem to say: Although we are not exactly following you, good job, Jeremy, well Spoken, you are clearly doing your best to Speak of Nautical, and if the result is somewhat vague and hard to parse, well, that is the fault of Mr. U., who apparently has set your Prolixity too high.

    But they dare not judge me too harshly.

    For soon their Pulses too will come.

    On Break we stay Pinioned, resting. Our current Pose: arms and legs thrown out wide, in the shape of the letter X, each of us askew at a slightly different angle.

    Like stars, or a trio of folks falling from a great height.

    Mr. U. comes back in with a beer and some chips.

    “I think,” he says, “City. A cityscape. What do you...
About the Author-
  • George Saunders is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of eleven books, including A Swim in a Pond in the Rain; Lincoln in the Bardo, which won the Booker Prize; Congratulations, by the way; Tenth of December, a finalist for the National Book Award; The Braindead Megaphone; and the critically acclaimed collections CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, Pastoralia, and In Persuasion Nation. He teaches in the creative writing program at Syracuse University.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 22, 2022
    Booker winner Saunders (Lincoln in the Bardo) returns to the short form with a wide-ranging collection that alternates his familiar fun house of warped simulations with subtler dramas. In “Ghoul,” actors playing demons at an Inferno-esque attraction called “Maws of Hell” succumb to workplace rivalries under the watchful eye of their managers. “Love Letter,” set in a Trumpist dystopia where “loyalists” report dissenters for infractions, takes the form of a man’s cautionary letter to his defiant grandson. The title story imagines a sinister company whose employees, little more than programs, are forced to recreate Custer’s last stand. Other stories probe loss, regret, and hopefulness. “The Mom of Bold Action” follows a frustrated writer and housewife facing turmoil when her son is attacked by at least one of two identical old creeps. “Mother’s Day” explores the inner life of a once feisty elderly woman now living at a remove from the world after her daughter runs away from home. “Elliot Spencer” combines futurism and pathos as a mind-wiped counterprotester suddenly recovers his identity. Saunders’s four previous collections shook the earth a bit harder, but he continues to humanize those whom society has worn down to a nub. Despite the author’s shift to quieter character studies, there’s plenty to satisfy longtime devotees.

  • AudioFile Magazine George Saunders has won many awards for his writing. His skill as an author and as a narrator is on display here. He delivers the first and last stories in this audio collection, bookending an excellent cast. All nine of the stories focus on people with problematic identities, and each narrator embodies his or her protagonist's particular problem in an appropriate and evocative way. There are elements of science fiction and fantasy, but they never lose touch with relatable human experience, even in (so far) completely impossible circumstances. The stories in which the protagonists' humanity is mostly absent still manage to elicit empathy. These are excellent performances of excellent stories. D.M.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award � AudioFile 2022, Portland, Maine
  • Library Journal

    March 1, 2023

    Booker Prize winner Saunders (Lincoln in the Bardo) returns with astute observations about poverty, inequality, power, class, exploitation, revenge, relationships, love, and disappointment. An all-star cast of narrators including Saunders himself, Tina Fey, Michael McKean, Edi Patterson, Jenny Slate, Jack McBrayer, Melora Hardin, and Stephen Root breathe magic into these nine stories. The varied narrators help listeners shift gears, moving from the stories of marginalized employees forced to entertain the rich with a musical of Custer's last stand, to an overprotective mom seeking revenge for a slight against her son, and ending with the man who desperately wants to sell his house to the right buyer but just can't close the deal. Each narrator is perfect for the story they perform as they boost the content and let Saunders's mastery of satire shine. Ranging from sci-fi to realistic present-day settings, the scope of this work goes from weird to wonderful. VERDICT There is a reason Saunders is often cited as one of the finest short-story writers working today. Each story in this collection has the potential to be an all-time favorite, and the addition of superstar narrators makes this an essential purchase for all public libraries.--Christa Van Herreweghe

    Copyright 2023 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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