Monday, February 09, 2009

Reader's Diary #449- George Saunders: Jon

Last week Eva's contribution to Short Story Monday was a review of the Jeffrey Eugenides edited My Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead, an anthology of "love stories from Checkov to Munro." Since Valentine's Day is this week, I figured I'd try to find one of those stories online and review it for this week's SSM. Fortunately, I was able to find George Saunder's "Jon" in The New Yorker archives.

In many ways, "Jon" reminded me of Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake. At first I thought both were set in the very near future, certainly both make contemporary references and deal with modern concerns. In hindsight, however, I'm not as convinced that Saunders story is meant to be the future, or simply a group of people living in the present in a sort of secret society.

"Jon" is the story of a group of teens that appear to have been raised as a focus group, owned either by a super conglomerate or advertising agency. Interwoven with the social commentary, is a love story. Jon, who has never questioned the great life inside the facility, falls in love with Carolyn who has decided that life inside is not "authentic" and wants out. Jon, of course, must decide whether he will accompany Carolyn or not.

A few years ago when Oryx and Crake was a Canada Reads contender, its defender Olivia Chow tried to make the case that it was a love story. As much as I enjoyed that book, I didn't, couldn't, see it as a love story. "Jon," however, I do. It's also a critique on society, but love is crucial to the plot. Love represents an escape from the plastic, generic world of advertising. It might be a flawed blade of grass but it's beauty in its purest, individualized form.

I really, really enjoyed this story. Any author that can write "Which I was like, Dude, who thought this shit up?" and not lose me entirely, must be doing something right.

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Teddy Rose said...

Boy John, this will make it two weeks in a row that you get me curious obout the short stories you have reviewed.

I'm heading over to print 'Jon" now. Thanks for the link!

Anonymous said...

Nice. I'd like to read this one.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

This is certainly one that I will read, because dude I speak like that all the time.

Stacy said...

This does sound like a good story. Thanks for the review.

Eva said...

Whoops-I just misspelled Hitchhiking in the Mr. Linky. Sorry about that! It's another story from the anthology, though. :)

I thought "Jon" was a really interesting story on its own, but it didn't fit well in the book. It took me half the story just to re-adjust my brain, because none of the other stories are speculative, lol.

John Mutford said...

Teddy: Great, 'cause I loved reading your thoughts on "A & P."

April: If you do, come back and comment!

Barbara: I was like, no way, dude, you do not, and then I was like, duh, she was joking lamewad.

Bookpsmith: I recommend it.

Eva: I can see that. It
could certainly seem out of place.

Lynda said...

Up late - but here's as hort story from a collection of stories from Wales:

Anonymous said...

You have made this sound very intriguing. Sounds vaguely like Never Let Me Go. Off to check this out. Many thanks!