George Saunders’ hallucinatory take on advertising culture

Phil2George Saunders has a fascinating short story called “In Persuasion Nation” in the new issue of Harper’s. It’s not available online, but its perverse take on advertising is worth checking out. The characters in the story exist in what appear to be ultraviolent TV ads—a teenager eats his MacAttack Mac&Cheese rather than help his injured grandmother; a “Slap-of-Wack” bar attacks an orange during an argument about nutrition; a pair of grandparents decapitate their grandson in a fight over a bag of Doritos; Abraham Lincoln is interrupted during the Gettysburg Address by scores of Wendy’s “GrandeChickenBoatCombos” parachuting down from the sky. The hallucinatory story seems to suggest that advertising is breeding an ever more profane culture that perpetuates violence against its increasingly brainwashed and bewildered consumers/victims. The skill and humor of the storytelling are hard to resist. For a Saunders story that is online, check out “CommComm,” a piece from the Aug. 1 issue of The New Yorker. And for more on Saunders, have a look at the interesting Web site for his latest novel, The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil.

—Posted by Tim Nudd