Monday, May 24, 2004

Professional vs. Me

George Saunders is a professional writer. I mean this in both the usual meanings. He gets paid for writing, and he has reached an Olympian proficiency of wit and satire that I admire yet cannot begin to emulate.

Unfortunately I never read his novels because of the New Yorker we-call-this-a-short-story-but-it's-really-a-novel-excerpt thing they do that I hate. But today he has a Swiftian piece that just hits the right level of winking satire. He never mentions any specifics, the prose is all in very simple words that put it in a weird space than the one usually finds in Iraq pieces. For instance, nowhere in the piece will you find these words: Bush, Rumsfield, Saddam, Torture, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Osama, Abu Ghraib (or is it Abe Vigoda? Was Abe Vigoda involved in Abu Ghraib? What exactly did he do to Bernice?), Geneva Convention etc. By eschewing proper nouns that short circuit thinking, he puts the reader in a totally different frame of mind.

What he does do is put into very simple words a quite sophisticated set-theoretical, Aristotelian logic argument on how to get out of Iraq. And it is hilarious, but until it comes with pictures courtesy of Heritage Foundation, I don't think our leaders will pay it any mind.

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