"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Everyday Struggle Between Capitalism and Grace: George Saunders

I'm reading CivilWarLand, loving it (Humane Raccoon Alternatives involves a tire iron), and people are sending links to interviews with the author, beginning with this one at Powells. Then there's one at the NY Times from last year. And for those who will not be dissuaded, AOL's 120 Questions.

It's the cynicism, the hollowness of work (cf. the racoons) and the fact that so few authors even write about it. As he says, much of literature is adultery during exotic vacations, but that's not what most of our lives are like. What do the baristas think? Who's writing about the cubicle slaves? What we all dread doing, until the alternative is even worse. Nobody dreams of growing up and going to work in a cubicle. Or being a "delivery fucking guy," as one twenty-something delivery guy, married, kids, once told me, shaking his head in wonder at how this fate had befallen him. Still, I wonder if we'd be happier as subsistence-level farmers, or hunter-gatherers. We'd be too tired to complain. It's like we're just comfortable enough to be miserable that we have to work at dull jobs.
I remember thinking when I worked for that corporation, "Oh man, the American corporation, it's soul sucking." But then to have two little kids and get inside that citadel was very nice. To have insurance and to know if you just showed up and were competent and decent your kids would make it.
Would we trade the dullness for the excitement and risk of fighting off saber-toothed cats? Not likely. I include myself here. I hate dull desk jobs, but a good cup of organic coffee makes up for a lot. *sigh* The quote above is from an interview at Identity Theory.

Saunders, interestingly, is a Buddhist, which may explain looking closely at things like cubicle existence others prefer to overlook.

More links: Saunders interviewed by the amazing-herself Scarlett Thomas. Interview at Daytrotter.com. Pasadena Weekly -- where he talks about Buddhism, 9/11 and the Iraq War. The Texas Observer. Real Change News.

You can Google the rest.

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