Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Pastoralia” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


4.10  ·  Rating details ·  18,770 ratings  ·  1,553 reviews
With this new collection, George Saunders takes us even further into the shocking, uproarious and oddly familiar landscape of his imagination.

The stories in Pastoralia are set in a slightly skewed version of America, where elements of contemporary life have been merged, twisted, and amplified, casting their absurdity-and our humanity-in a startling new light. Whether he wr
Paperback, 188 pages
Published September 8th 2001 by Bloomsbury Publishing (first published May 2000)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.10  · 
Rating details
 ·  18,770 ratings  ·  1,553 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Pastoralia
Jun 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rob by: Amy by way of Sarah
Imagine for a moment that you go into the up-scale liquor store around the block that is celebrated city-wide for its fabulous wine selection. You're a bit of a novice when it comes to wine and are a little embarrassed to be here because your wallet is that ballistic nylon stuff and not something truly exotic like alligator skin and with that in mind you decide not to ask the sommelier for any help. You browse around the store looking for a bottle of something called David Foster Wallace that wa ...more
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to carol. by: Fiona
DECEMBER EDIT: So when this title popped up as someone 'liked' it, I thought, "wow, I am truly losing my mind. I don't recognize that title. And that cover? That looks COMPLETELY unlike my taste." When I investigated further, I discovered it was a collection, not the short story I originally reviewed. Yet another stand-alone story originally rated and reviewed that was smashed into a new title. I officially Wish a Thousand Female Mosquitoes Upon Each of the Librarians that condone this shit.

Vit Babenco
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Bread and circuses,” ancients used to say… And George Saunders smartly turns the art of modern entertainment into an effervescent absurdist comedy.
Pastoralia is some sort of luna park or freak show established to educate and amuse the public. The protagonist works there impersonating a caveman.
And the ways the society is being entertained tell everything about society as such too…
“Remember I told you about Chief Joseph, who never stopped walking? You’re like him. My brave little warrior. Bibby,
Paquita Maria Sanchez
I think that if the arrangement of this collection had been reversed I would be singing a different tune right now, but as it stands I am a bit torn regarding rating this thing. Man, these stories are well-written. Saunders is darkly witty, and clearly his heart is in the right place. His main point of contention with the modern world is the reckless hammer of Capitalism, an easy target to be sure, but that is arguably all the more reason to call it into question. The injuries that it inflicts a ...more
Based on the opinions of people with excellent taste in books, I knew I was in for something good when I grabbed Pastoralia from the shelf the other day. I didn't know what to expect beyond that but it sure wasn't the sardonic giggles this collection gave me. Does everyone find their first foray into Saunders's mind this darkly endearing? 'Cause.... lemme tell you, you all led me somewhere I can't wait to revisit.

There is something off about the worlds Saunders creates. Not off-the-charts unbeli
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: in-short
Almost two decades before George Saunders published the everybody's-talking-about-it book, Lincoln in the Bardo, he published Pastoralia.

Pastoralia is a collection of six short stories, and they are some of the weirdest, bleakest, and most well-written ones I've ever encountered.

As I worked through (struggled through) each one of them, I kept asking myself, Are these dystopian? I tend to think of "dystopian" as futuristic, or containing more futuristic elements, of government-imposed rations, r
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Like other folks I know and respect on Goodreads, I loved the opening, titular story but found the rest of the book to be middling. Like, disappointingly, forgettably, middling. I know the stories were kinda weird and stuff but for the life of me I can barely even remember what they were about or even distinguish them from each other. I don't think I've ever felt so uneven about a short story collection. It's so strange that it makes me curious enough to give them a reread at some point, despite ...more
Peter Boyle
''His childhood dreams had been so bright, he had hoped for so much, it couldn't be true that he was a nobody.''

These stories, wacky as they may be, don't paint a very flattering portrait of modern life. A father takes a job as a grunting caveman at a run-down theme park in order to pay his son's exorbitant medical bills. A male stripper earns a meagre wage to support his ungrateful family, who spend their day watching reality TV like How My Child Died Violently and The Worst That Could Happen,
Heidi Mckye
Mar 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Any person who does not deeply love George Saunders is not allowed to be my friend. Even a little bit.
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The stories in Pastoralia were pretty great. Saunders definitely has a schtick here – sad-sack characters worn down by the unfairness of life in (mostly) comedic situations – but as there’s just six stories, it doesn’t get a chance to wear thin. The satire is goofy yet melancholic and it never feels mean. Such a short book though, reading it all in one go means it’s over too soon.
Bernie Kowalski is one of life's helpers. Quiet and shy, she's been given the wrong end of every deal, but she just keeps on finding the bright side and helping those she can. So when she dies, alone and terrified in a shitty flat, you could forgive her nephew for finding that unfair.

If I had my way I'd move everybody up to Canada. It's nice there. Very polite. We went for a weekend last fall and got a flat tire and these two farmers with bright-red faces insisted on fixing it, then springing f
May 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Wal-Mart employees contemplating suicide
Shelves: can-t-decide
I finished this last night when I couldn't sleep ... I adore George Saunders in small doses, he is so very funny and has such an ear for the pathos of our sad American industrial poverty.

But there's a kind of story that he writes over and over again ... not exactly the same story but the same kind of story. A story about a hilariously awful job, a hilariously difficult life and a sad, pathetic person stuck within. I don't even object to the repetition, but when I read it all back to back the re
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
This collection was totally up my alley. Saunders' writing kind of reminds me of Vonnegut, who I later realized was one of his inspirations. I was not a fan of Lincoln in the Bardo, but I'm so happy I gave his short stories a chance. Can't wait to read more of his work! ...more
Sam Basalari
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: any sentient being
Sea Oak is jarring, funny, and unexpected. I promise it will not bore you.
John Hatley
Sep 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really fun collection of 5 short stories and one novella by an author I didn’t know before. It is also a collection I’ll enjoy reading again soon. It contains humourous, sad, surreal and futuristic tales. George Saunders is certainly an author to remember. I “discovered” the title here on Goodreads!
Jan 31, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021, library
These warped and strange stories of misfits, losers and other sidelined people are just amazing. I found it really hard to stop reading. Funny, sad, insightful, dark and sometimes off putting, the characters feel authentic even at their most downtrodden. The title story is just bizarre, a theme park of sorts where the exhibits are live-in actors of sorts, the featured couple are cavemen. It’s a situation Saunders uses to criticise work conditions and society in general. The second story, “Winky” ...more
May 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is the second collection of Saunder’s short stories I’ve read and Pastorlia is cut from the same cloth as the first. Think of the cartoon strip, The Far Side, in story form and you’ll get the idea of what his writing is like. His stories are weird and funny, with a pronounced absurdist edge to them. Saunders often populates his stories with a menagerie of misfits who are life’s punching bags. While their struggles are played for laughs, there is, at times, an underlying pathos to his charac ...more
MJ Nicholls
Nov 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
‘Pastoralia’ (the opening story) shows what Saunders can do. How his prose can be funny and surreal and warm and satirical and touching. Unfortunately, having done this, the other stories in this collection seem like shticky filler. ‘Winky’ was another strong piece, but I found myself snoozing through ‘Sea Oak’ which does a surrealist dance in a ra-ra skirt, and getting annoyed by his rhythms in ‘The Barber’s Unhappiness.’ His repetition, his rambling passages of superfluous detail, how he goes ...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

I had the pleasure of getting to talk with legendary author George Saunders for CCLaP's podcast last week, a rare treat given how in demand he is on this latest tour even among the major media; but that meant I had to do some serious cramming in the few weeks leading up to our talk, in that (I guiltily con
Apr 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
This collection is easily the best collection of stories I have had the pleasure to ever read. Dark. Cynical. Horrific. And, yet, these stories possess a level of truth in each one that resonates long after the story ends. Simply put: George Saunders is brilliant.
Mattia Ravasi
Feb 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Video review:
Featured in my Top 5 George Saunders Books:

The opening novella is exquisite and there are a few very strong pieces in here, (and it's not like the others suck or anything really), but overall there's a certain redundancy in themes and characters through the collection that damages the overall effect.
I'd suggest reading it one story at a time every once in a while, rather than in a single / a few sittin
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Nov 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories, read08
Terrific, even better than CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, but with similar themes. I shared the unanswered question at the end of Sea Oak, for sure. Don't crap in my oatmeal, okay? ...more
This might just be the epitome of-what Justin Isis refers to as "White Dad Fiction", though I'm not sure if this is precisely the sort of thing he had in mind with that designation. The stories in Pastoralia, while bookended with stories featuring white dads as protagonists (at least I think they're white; their skin tone is never mentioned), are certainly weirder than most of what passes for "weird fiction" from what I've read. The stories are heavy on social satire and existential queasy uneas ...more
Anita Pomerantz
Feb 19, 2017 rated it liked it
6 stories, one 5 star, two 4 stars, two 3 stars, and one 2 star = 3.5. I'm rounding to a three despite my LOVE for this author. One of the issues is the stories appeared in the order of best to worst (in my opinion), so that left you feeling a little bereft at the end instead of elated. Had the order been reversed, I probably would have gone with 4 stars.

Saunders' stories make fun of the mundane in very creative ways, and I really enjoy his weird characters. But you can tell this was his first b
Dec 01, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-story
Good grief. After reading Civilwarland in Bad Decline, I thought, "It might be a hokey throwback to Vonnegut, but by Samuel Clemens' ghost, George has got something here..." Of course, after reading Pastoralia, I have become strangely skeptical of his growth as an author.

Sure, what Saunders has produced is worthy of attention, but is he a one-trick pony? I want to see him change his style a bit between books. Even in In Persuasion Nation, Saunders sounds like a copy of himself--albeit one who h
Jan 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-story, free, 2017
A very entertaining short story.
A year ago I'd never heard of George Saunders, and now I've got two of his short stories collections under my belt.

Reading Pastoralia I can see the groundwork being laid for the better Tenth of December. There's the awful theme park with its put-upon employees; there's the smarmy, dickbag bosses, the memos from management, the collection of losers who are forced to choose between a terrible job and their human decency; there's the misfits and retards and losers and geeks and qweebs and losers an
Leo Robertson
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Worth it for the title story alone. It had quotes I swear I'd heard from the mouths of my own managers last week, which hit my ear wrong for reasons this story helped me to understand. A perfect marriage of incomplete real-life observations brought to the table of fiction for illumination. I am improved as a human.

George Saunders: putting the rest of us to shame since he got good.

Briefly has you believing that the world is some big crazy distraction-machine filled with squishy little compassion
Anthony Panegyres
A fine collection. Pastoralia is stylistically more ambitious than CivilWarLand in Bad Decline with lengthy ‘run-on’ sentences throughout. The satirical themes and arcs, however, are very similar as Saunders again explores those on the societal fringe; those slightly confused by the world’s madness and needing a little assurance. While celebrating humanity, Saunders also condemns the lunacy of the American psyche and landscape by lampooning, yet also sentimentalising, what some may consider the ...more
Sep 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor
Comic Genius

The only American publication I still receive here in Spain is The New Yorker. It gets here a little late so you'll have to excuse the late news. Probably my favorite funny person in the world, George Saunders, has a story in the May 28 issue. Not to spoil this mess of a story for you but I found this part laugh-out-loud funny. Why did I find it laugh-out-loud funny? It just is.

But if no one took the pup he’d do it. He’d have to. Because his feeling was, when you said you were going
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Reading 1001: Pastoralia by George Saunders 4 20 Jul 28, 2020 09:01AM  
Play Book Tag: Pastoralia/Saunders - 3 stars 2 17 May 19, 2018 01:36AM  
Goodreads Italia: Pastoralia - George Saunders 1 30 Dec 11, 2013 02:29PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Oameni mari
  • Jesus' Son
  • Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
  • Arcașul fără arc
  • Recviem vesel pentru tata
  • Sînt alta
  • Nu striga niciodată ajutor
  • Toate zborurile au fost anulate
  • Oblivion: Stories
  • The Drop Edge of Yonder
  • Girl with Curious Hair
  • The Flanders Road
  • Death in Her Hands
  • Дни Савелия
  • A Collapse of Horses
  • The Largesse of the Sea Maiden
  • I Stand Here Ironing (KnowledgeNotes Student Guides)
See similar books…
George Saunders was born December 2, 1958 and raised on the south side of Chicago. In 1981 he received a B.S. in Geophysical Engineering from Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. He worked at Radian International, an environmental engineering firm in Rochester, NY as a technical writer and geophysical engineer from 1989 to 1996. He has also worked in Sumatra on an oil exploration geophysi ...more

Articles featuring this book

The Great American Novel is something of a moving target. The term, used to describe a work of fiction that accurately shows the...
66 likes · 109 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“Down in the city are the nice houses and the so-so houses and the lovers making out in dark yards and the babies crying for their moms, and I wonder if, other than Jesus, has this ever happened before. Maybe it happens all the time. Maybe there's angry dead all over, hiding in rooms, covered with blankets, bossing around their scared, embarrassed relatives. Because how would we know?” 14 likes
“Good God, but life could be less than easy, not that he was unaware that it could certainly be a lot worse, but to go about in such a state, pulse high, face red, worried sick that someone would notice how nervous one was, was certainly less than ideal, and he felt sure that his body was secreting all kinds of harmful chemicals and that the more he worried about the harmful chemicals the faster they were pouring out of wherever it was they came from.” 9 likes
More quotes…