Catherine
Catherine asked:

Is there an overall theme to all the stories as a whole?

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Deborah Klein Clearly - class disparity, great humanity in "average" people, and the stories themselves all appear to be set in a recent US future where the worst of what we have today has gotten worse. For example illegal immigration issues - the ubiquitous Mexican gardener in California has evolved into a lawn ornament.
Bryan Murphy How people who (he believes) are inherently good can often, but not always, be led to do evil.
Caryn Definitely. Anxiety about the emptiness of modern life and the failure of technology to make us happy. Technology which has developed beyond mankind's understanding or control; we live in service of it, not the other way around --- and we don't understand it enough to have evolved a moral conscience about it. Human beings' alienation and what our responsibility should be for one another. How far we should go in order to pursue the American Dream.
Kim Hunter The main thing that binds work is voice. Saunders comes from deep inside his quirky totally recognizable, all too human characters with such clarity and innovation that it's astounding. To answer you question more directly, one theme is class/perception and how it affects how we see ourselves, our families (familial relations are crucial as well) and people we don't think are "like us." But Saunders takes that to a deeper level to look not just at our class positions but age differences, how close/far we are from death and what it means to appreciate being alive.
Benjamin i thought about this after i read the collection and came up with the following idea for what *might* be considered a unifying theme: people unintentionally hurting other people because they were afraid of hurting others in the same way they were hurt.

not sure how accurate that is, but that's my thought.
S Moss How about dysfunctional American families--obsessed with material possessions, envious of others while oblivious of their own faults and generally pretty mean-spirited? This also shows up in Lincoln in the Bardo, where unbelievably Saunders has Lincoln thirsting for a blood-bath to end the Civil War (guess no current reader knows the real history?). What I'm wondering is why critics think so highly of Sauders' semi-sadistic approach to life and his characters?
David Wise Parenting issues (or parent/child issues) play a major part in all but a couple of the stories.

Also technology (usually but not always pharmaceutical) that causes people think, feel, and behave in extremely specific ways (i.e., like a romanticized knight in "My Chivalric Disaster") seems to be one of Saunders' go-to devices. (See also: "Escape From Spiderhead," "The Semplica Girl Diaries," etc.)
Jason Murphy I'd say there are three recurring themes: fear, technology and hope
Senad Subasic Sadness.

Other than that, no, not really.
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