Books: Hapless Heroes

George Saunders' fine satire about dead-end jobs and lost dreams

Trickle-down economics has not yet sunk to the places that the people in George Saunders' fiction must, for want of a better fortune, call home. The hilariously hapless heroes of the six stories in Pastoralia (Riverhead Books; 188 pages; $22.95) live as adults with their crotchety mothers or religiously obsessed sisters or a menagerie of squabbling relatives. The beleaguered breadwinner in Sea Oak works as a male stripper at Joysticks, a club with an aviation motif, and notes of his lodgings, "At Sea Oak there's no sea and no oak, just a hundred subsidized apartments and a rear view of FedEx."


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