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Pastoralia

by Rob Friesel

Pasoralia by George Saunders at Amazon.comImagine 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 was recommended to you by your friend with the alligator skin wallet.  You manage to find the bottle of DFW and admire the fancy bottle with its fancy label and its curlicues and footnotes and excellent leading.  The bottle seems really heavy and big and everyone has told you how excellent it is.  So you decide to try it but when you actually get to the counter you discover that you’ve picked up a bottle of something called George Saunders by mistake.  The George Saunders bottle isn’t as big or as fancy as the DFW and in fact it looks a little bit like a down-market or off-label knock-off of the vintage DFW but at the same time you believe that there is maybe something authentic and distinct about it anyway.  The sommelier gives you a funny look as he rings you up but you don’t say anything because you don’t want to look stupid in front of him and anyway you’re probably just being self-conscious about the whole thing like the time you had a glass of Pynchon at your friend’s house and you said that it was a good Vonnegut and everyone laughed and your friend explained that the Vonnegut has a much sharper finish and you’ll notice how the Pynchon seems to hang around in your mouth so much longer but he could see how you might make that mistake.  And you try to think about that night on your drive home because it’s that same friend with the alligator skin wallet that is coming over for dinner tonight with his wife and you remember how he plays golf with your boss and this is an important event to get right.  So that night before the main course you pour everyone’s glass in the kitchen so that no one will see the bottle and the secret will be safe with you.  And your wife brings out the entree and you bring out the wine and everyone digs in and finds it delicious.  Your friend with the alligator skin wallet remarks on how delicious the wine is and did you have any trouble finding the David Foster Wallace at the store?  And was the sommelier there helpful?  And what year did he recommend because this is really really quite good?  And you smile and try to decide whether or not to say anything because you know that you’ll need to say something but how are you going to make up something plausible on the spot.  But then your wife blurts out that it’s really a George Saunders and don’t you just love it?  Because she slurped down her glass of George Saunders and it was her third of the night anyway because she and your friend’s wife managed to down a whole bottle of David Sedaris as a warm-up but they both agreed it was too dry for them even though you and your friend think that it’s the perfect middle-of-the-week wine.  For a moment you’re paralyzed with fear because this was your shot, your chance to show off and really shine and display your competence and you blew it because you were too chicken shit to tell the sommelier at the counter that you picked up the wrong bottle by mistake.  But instead your friend raises an eyebrow and says that it’s wonderful, just delightful, and he’d never tried it before and though maybe it’s not as dry as the DFW, does it ever have a great finish and it’s just perfect for a dinner party, isn’t it?

Review originally published on GoodReads.com.

PS: If you enjoyed this review, please consider buying a copy of Pastoralia with my Amazon Affiliate link.

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

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