American Gothic

George Saunders captures the soul of a bankrupt era

Chloe Aftel / Random House

Is there a worse place to work than a theme park? I'd suspect that George Saunders--poet laureate of the dead-end job--would say no. Since his debut story collection, 1996's CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, Saunders has been drawn to cut-rate Adventurelands; think the Medieval Times chain but not so high-end. Cheap theme parks are funny and sad in the same way Saunders' stories are funny and sad. There's something especially soul crushing about drawing minimum wage to create illusion on a budget, and Saunders makes you feel the mental toll of living paycheck to paycheck. On the other hand, we have knights...

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