Welcome to the first installment of THE GENTLEMAN RECOMMENDS. This series is intended to get people (especially gentlemen) excited about the books/authors/eating-contests I’m excited about. I’m an ideal person to represent and recommend things to gentlemen and I’ll prove it: in the last hour alone I’ve: 1) removed my trousers and draped them over a puddle so that a particularly well-coiffed golden retriever could avoid soiling her paws, 2) not sneezed into anyone’s face and 3) responded with the gentlemanly phrase “No, thank you” when asked to please put some pants on. Credentials established.
I can think of no better inaugural recommendation than pizza, but, after that, I think George Saunders is pretty spiffy. Not only is he a Great Writer, but reading everything about the fellow I could find convinced me he’s one of this world’s premier gentlemen. Mr. Saunders’ short stories have been sending readers raving since 1996 with the publication of “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline,” but this year the adoration has skyrocketed, beginning in January with a lengthy profile published in some magazine claiming that Saunders has written the best book you’ll read this year and culminating in May with a much briefer, if more prestigious, post from what may very well be the greatest blog in the world.
Readers love George Saunders because he slakes our thirst for stories in which sword-wielding tortilla chips decapitate the elderly or the corpse of a previously chaste aunt reanimates and advises her nephew that he should be showing more skin at his stripper-waiter job because that’s how you make the big bucks. But he isn’t loved just because he’s a master of stories that make curmudgeons’ eyes roll when they hear a terribly reductive description of them. He does what great writers do: write with huge-hearted empathy and humor about toe-less barbers or theme park exhibits or dystopian-reality-show contestants or tortilla chips, and he does so in voices that describe their perspectives perfectly.
If you’re more in the mood for nonfiction, Saunders writes essays that will make you chuckle and maybe improve your person. His collection, The Braindead Megaphone, is hard to put down and full of beautifully rendered wisdom like the lines that close the profile linked above and which I will reprint here because they should be reprinted everywhere:
“Don’t be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end, amen.”
So, after you read some George Saunders and try some pizza, I hope you’ll join the pants-loving cashier at my local gas store in attesting: I’m the perfect gentleman to recommend stuff, and, also, I smell nice.