Fresh off Tin House‘s reprinting of the first ever David Foster Wallace publication, Hunger Mountain has reprinted George Saunders’s first published story: A Lack of Order in the Floating Object Room (originally published in the Northwest Review, 1986).
Being a short story writer instead of a novelist may be slightly damaging Saunders’s standing in the contemporary pantheon, but for my money he is no less a giant than anyone else one might name. His story collections (CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, Pastoralia and In Persuasian Nation) are all absolutly essential and I highly recommend them, especially Pastoralia.
Looking back on the early work of geniuses like Wallace or Saunders is neat. You quickly notice the elements that blossomed later (the voice-driven humor, the perfect skewering of corporate lingo and the unapologetic thumping heart beneath those things). Also available online is an introduction by Tobias Wolff, one of Saunders’s professors when he attended the Syracuse MFA program:
So what did I see in this story? I saw the future, nothing less – the writer destined to be the consummate poet of American corporate-speak (“They rotate at about a revolution per minute, as per specs”), a great chronicler of human desire struggling to define itself against a world of manufactured, themed, reality — life subsumed by franchises and doled out in market-friendly dollops drenched in novocaine language: “This is an Employee Objective Assessment Evening.”
You can read the entirety of A Lack of Order in the Floating Object Room online. Here is the first line:
It’s like this, and it is no dream: First off, a plastic palomino and its stiff-armed rider float above a toybox.