Since he has written extensively about theme parks, I thought it might be fun to give readers a brief travel guide to his fictional world. A kind of Rough Guide to SaundersLand. Anyone who has read his writing knows that at the core of all his stories, essays and novellas is the central question, what is it to be human, which he answers in his own unique way by turning metaphors inside out and making weirdness visible, inviting critical thinking.
Welcome to SaundersLand
In the south, in CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, people tend to be more direct and the way they talk can take some getting used to, but only if you’re not inherently honest or unfamiliar with the unusual cadences of corporate speak. This hybrid dialect is strangely pleasing on the ear and is partly to do with CivilWarLanders’ history and some of the weird menial jobs they are forced to perform. Also due to the fact that a number of characters are ghosts. Nothing like being dead for making people more open and truthful.
To the west, you’ll find Pastoralia. A bit of back story: in the late-90s, there was a massive drought and a subsequent shortage of adverbs, consequently sentences could not afford the luxury of being big scenery-chewing setups and he gets right to the point. The poetry of failure and unfulfillment played out among theme park cave people not allowed to speak English, among geeks, the optimistic and the dead, and a reluctant male stripper all seeking enlightenment, or at least to grab hold of the American Dream.
Up north in Tenth of DecemberLand, people are generally more upbeat. That may be because they’ve not had to go through the same consumer brainwashing or indignities of being sold into slavery that In Persuasion Nation people went through, or just because that seems to be their outlook, generally speaking. There are some exceptions. The incarceration-style child rearing techniques favored by the parents in “Puppy” might rub some the wrong way, but their hearts are in the right place. Locals avoid: Veteran Mike, sometimes to be seen lurking creepily around the back of people’s homes, but he’s well-meaning once you get to know him.
Those with kids will find lots of family friendly areas in Tenth of December and along the borders of In Persuasion Nation. “Maybe too friendly,” some of you who spent the night in the “Adams” hospitality suite wrote on your comment cards, having encountered a man in his underwear staring at your child’s bedroom door. Don’t worry, he’s only the local neighborhood watch. We hope the complimentary Verbaluce™ and I Can Speak™ we sent you go some way to alleviating the shock and that little Melanie recovers her ability to speak real soon! Meanwhile, please accept these free weekend vouchers to the theme park and take a moment to explore some of the neighboring sights. There’s some rough terrain at the base of “Spiderhead”, but I think you’ll find the hike is worth it once you see the view.
Although perhaps best-known for its strangeness, SaundersLand has all kind of natural beauty spots. And you’ll find these suddenly–in a cornfield, on a clothesline flapping against a summer sky, on a walk in the woods–beauty in the most unexpected places. You don’t even have to go looking for it, just enter with a healthy sense of humor and an open mind and it will find you.