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The Semplica-Girl Diaries (short story)

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  693 ratings  ·  55 reviews
Novelette, Free online fiction.


“The Semplica-Girl Diaries” deals with a family in a not-too-distant future (or perhaps an alternate present or past?) that is struggling to keep up with the Joneses—which, in this society, means leasing some unusual garden ornaments.
ebook, 24 pages
Published October 15th 2012 by
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Average rating 4.20  · 
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 ·  693 ratings  ·  55 reviews

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Wei Li
Sep 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-fiction
Shit, this is haunting. There's far more in this free New Yorker novelette than in some New York Times bestsellers. The poor circumstances of hired immigrants, the little ways in which children try to get their parents's attention, the frivolous way in which the rich consume, and how the everyman abhor yet aspire to be like the rich. These were all touched upon, and yet Saunders never made it too on the nose. It's fiction that directs your attention to a social matter and asks you, 'Would you ha ...more
catherine ♡
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
This had a sort of subtle dystopian twinge to it, and I really liked how there was a contrast between childlike innocence and an adult already tainted by materialistic culture.
Apr 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Whoa. This short-story packs a punch. A very in-your-face turn that makes you shiver a bit with disgust and anger. I have often wondered why the future is usually such a bleak place in fiction, but I think it is because we can see elements in our society that make us feel such developments are possible. The need for status, the emphasis on worldly goods, what we own, do we own as much or more than the guy next door...these are poisons. What is the next thing that our children will have to have i ...more
Sep 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
Wow, this story is a brilliant little vision of an alternate society much like ours where westerners are trying to keep up with their rich neighbours to an extreme by exploiting young women or girls from impoverished families in third world countries. The already materialist older daughter is a huge contrast with the youngest still having innocence, natural justice and sympathy.
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
On first glance after finishing this story, I thought that it had not been well explained. I then begin to stretch to figure out the significance of the SGs. I think they are refugees who have been brought to the alternate style society on a contractual basis and are being used in this most menial way until they have fulfilled their contracts. They are being used in this mindless way - not as slaves - but even in some ways more mindless than slaves had been used.

I think it is a very political s
A terrific Saunders story, with his trademark tone of hilarious/depressing.

Set in the near future, a father decides to keep a diary of his efforts to raise his family. In his desire to match his neighbors, all of whom are wealthier than he is, he spends too much money on a fancy yard. The description of this scene alone was worth the whole story.

The family employs women from poor countries who are, by way of surgery, made into a sort of robot (while retaining their humanity). This cruel practice
Apr 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: school, short-stories
I agree with other reviewers. This is a short horrifying little story that I had to reread before realizing what the Semplica Girls were. The description of putting them up was just so casual I missed it in the first read.
Steve Haywood
Apr 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
This is a short story by acclaimed short story writer George Saunders, about a man in the near future (or an alternative present), facing the pressures of an ordinary suburban American life - credit cards maxed out, trying to keep his family happy etc. It's his daughter's birthday coming up, but after going to a rich friend's birthday party, she's suddenly miserable and ashamed of their (middle class) poverty, their small house and yard, and doesn't want a party. A sudden flash of good fortune h ...more
Ahmed R. Rashwan
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Well this was absolutely brilliant!

At first, I was not really sure what was happening and didn't understand the reason George Saunders' protagonist was writing that way. Frankly, I did not like it so much in the beginning, but by the end of the story found it to be pleasingly ingenious.

The story is a very unique and interesting one. George Saunders' plot is very relatable and this small work of his was enough to show me how well informed he is with the human thought process and psychology, and e
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Just want to point out that this is not that far fetched. We do these things to animals already. We cage birds because they're pretty and they sing for us. We keep fish in small aquariums as decorations. People adopt cats and dogs just sot that they can post pictures on their social media accounts and then completely ignore them, and forget to tend to them. Some people even do this to their children. This story is very close to home. It left a bitterness. ...more
Nov 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Possibly one of the greatest short stories ever written.

The way this is written - like a diary - and the way the SG's are treated like 'just one of those things' is remarkable. Would we ever get to a stage where we would behave like that? You bet! If society says it's normal, then our behavior alters accordingly.

This is a scarier short story than a million ghosts, a thousand Kings. It's scary because it's so real, and it's written so passe. I loved every second. Bless Eva. Hopefully, if our own
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Short story, about the ultimate in yard decorations and "keeping up with the Jones" with Semplica-Girl yard decorations. Available free online from the New Yorker, where it appeared as a short story.

Combines parental worries, social inequity, rich versus lower middle class versus poor. Set in the near(?) future, but very relevant.

Shocking denouement, but handled subtly and with great finesse.
I didn't find the concept of the SGs explained very well, however it seems as this short story explores an alternate reality where a family is struggling to compete with the families around them and ensure their children fit in. The trend is SGs as decorations at parties and events. I'm still letting this one sink in. ...more
Sep 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: contemporary
This story was required reading for my grad fiction workshop, and I can totally understand why. it's told in a brilliant and interesting style, contains simply alive characters, and hits you right in the gut with something you only noticed in the corner of your eye. This is artistry. ...more
Flo R
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Such a beautiful, yet tragic story. Hint to really enjoying this book - Once done, re-read the first few paragraphs of 'September 21st! Lily B-Day(!)' again. Helps figure out the 'hoisting' scene as well as an idea as to how Eva did the-thing-that-she-did. Loved this tale very much. ...more
Jun 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read this in the New Yorker's archives, so I definitely wouldn't call it a book, but it's a wonderful short story and it's still getting turned over in my mind a couple of days later. ...more
Nov 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Sep 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
give this a read. its quick and it is just art.
Sep 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Well that was unsettling.
Nov 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wow. A hauntingly, good read.
Rachel Cernosek
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm shook!! This novelette is crazy. Fantastic read. ...more
Dec 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I loved this; I was supposed to be off social media for Advent - and I am - but could not resist this update. Saunders’ portrayal of a floundering post-postmodern family is at once so simple and complex, so tender and vicious, so dystopian and familiar, so hopeful and despairing, that it pulls you in to the undeniable lifelikeness of his cameo. He describes the family’s relational surroundings with the blunt innocence of the uninitiate, painting with a sensitive literary brush the father’s longi ...more
Apr 10, 2021 rated it liked it
Diary stories such as this often come across like a boxing match's opening few rounds to me. Each new journalling entry in the story rings loudly, announcing the convening of heavyweight fighters returning to the ring. They exchange blows. The language has its wounds. And in the end a winner is declared, but is there ever actually a winner in any fighting bout? ...more
Jan 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
brilliant satire about capitalism and western consumption and how it degrades morality. the narrative choice rly helped highlight our own complicity and blind spots when it comes to the injustices behind the glorification of wealth and materialism. lots to think about here
elizabeth roberts-zibbel
Wow. Looking at “Lincoln In Bardo,” I came across reviews for this free little gem with the captivating art. It’s brilliant. First of all, at lower middle class and 44 years old it is SO easy to relate to the protagonist, and I love the choppy “note to self” journal-writing style. And the futuristic lawn “ornaments”... yikes. Very well done. I want to read all his stuff now.
Gia Loor
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
The voice of our main character is very personal, works really well for a first person POV.
It almost feels as if you are inside their head and not as being told through a diary, that's how personal it felt.
The writing of the diary is non-conventional.. It took me a little while to get used to it.
The narrator doesn't go out of his way when it comes to expressing himself and the type of wording he uses and I had issues with that at the begining but I was used to it by the end.
His thoughts are
Diana (Reading While Mommying) Dean
Wow, wow, wow! I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this story before. I read Saunders' Lincoln in the Bardo and enjoyed it, but I liked this story even better.

In the not-too-distant future a man writes down daily diaries of his family’s struggle to try and keep up with their rich friends. Their family doesn’t have much money but after he wins $10,000 on a scratch-off lottery ticket, they go a little wild planning for their daughter’s extravagent party to which they’ll invite their rich neighbors
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This short story opened my eyes to the way authors can parallel issues in the present world, and confront these issues more effectively than if they had talked factually. The way the reader slowly realises that the SG's are basically enslaved into this life of hanging on the lawns of the wealthy (or at least eager to impress), is disturbingly slow (at least for me). I loved the way Saunders entrenched this learned oppression into the language of his narrator and how the narrator would make refer ...more
Sep 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
A friend used this short story in his college philosophy class to discuss the excesses of affluence and the reality that our actions and aspiration are contaminated by sin, making us all BOTH oppressors and victims. I was further intrigued that he had replaced Shirley Jackson's indelible "The Lottery" with Semplica-Girl Diaries because it diffuses responsibility more directly across the characters.

In the case of such a thoughtful recommendation, it's not a surprise that Semplica-Girl Diaries is
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“Stood looking up at house, sad. Thought: Why sad? Don’t be sad. If sad, will make everyone sad. Went in happy, not mentioning bumper, squirrel/mouse smudge, maggots, then gave Eva extra ice cream, due to I had spoken harshly to her.” (Saunders)

equal parts hilarious and terrifying. never had i seen myself so clearly on a page before which exemplifies how spot-on Saunders’ observations were. (Arand)
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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

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