Reading Mindfully: George Saunders’ “Puppy”
March 31, 2017 | Maredith Sheridan
Image: Rembrandt, Sleeping Puppy, 1640, [Public Domain] via WikiArt.org
Each month, we offer you a chance to read mindfully, to use literature to think about your perceptions and reactions to the world in which we live and work. Through these short texts and accompanying questions, we hope to give you a small taste of Books@Work. Please grab a friend or colleague to read, share and discuss – and send us your thoughts.
For one of the most acclaimed short story writers and novelists living today, George Saunders had an unconventional start. Right out of college, he worked as a field geophysicist in Sumatra and later “as a doorman, a roofer, a convenience store clerk and a slaughterhouse worker.” From 1989–1996, he was a geophysical engineer in Rochester, NY. He published his first book at the age of 38.
By turns hilarious and heart-breaking, Saunders’ short stories satirize the absurdities of every-day life and humanize even the strangest of characters. His story “Puppy” appears in his collection Tenth of December, winner of the 2013 Story Prize and a finalist for a National Book Award. In classic Saunders style, “Puppy” portrays a single situation – the purchase of a puppy – from the perspectives of multiple characters.
As you read “Puppy,” consider these questions:
- Are first impressions important? What spurs us to judge others?
- How have your childhood experiences shaped the way you live your life as an adult?
- Did you find yourself “siding” with Marie or Callie – or both?
by George Saunders
Twice already Marie had pointed out the brilliance of the autumnal sun on the perfect field of corn, because the brilliance of the autumnal sun on the perfect field of corn put her in mind of a haunted house—not a haunted house she had ever actually seen but the mythical one that sometimes appeared in her mind (with adjacent graveyard and cat on a fence) whenever she saw the brilliance of the autumnal sun on the perfect etc. etc., and she wanted to make sure that, if the kids had a corresponding mythical haunted house that appeared in their minds whenever they saw the brilliance of the etc. etc., it would come up now, so that they could all experience it together, like friends, like college friends on a road trip, sans pot, ha ha ha!
But no. When she, a third time, said, “Wow, guys, check that out,” Abbie said, “O.K., Mom, we get it, it’s corn,” and Josh said, “Not now, Mom, I’m Leavening my Loaves,” which was fine with her; she had no problem with that, Noble Baker being preferable to Bra Stuffer, the game he’d asked for.
Continue reading “Puppy” in The New Yorker.