|Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!|
This text is a perfect example of what literary critic Linda Hutcheon refers to as "historiographic meta-fiction," which is just another fancy way of saying that it is highly self-reflexive and inherently paradoxical while problematizing the relationship between history and fiction. The movement from realism to post-modernism in this novel is an important moment of transition, encapsulating a shift in genre and consciousness. The fragmented narrative shows unity through disunity; celebrating multiple truths instead of just one overarching truth. The separation from literary tradition is relevant to any poetics of post-modernism and Saunders enthusiastically eschews with any linear succession of historical writing; he presents a striking denunciation of empiricism and objective truth. By not being bound to only what has happened in the past, the text confronts the paradoxes of fictive/historical representation. Saunders does a staggering amount of research on Abraham Lincoln, which draws attention to the historiography but there are gaps in that history and fiction helps to alleviate this problem. Thus, the self-recognition of fictional artifice allows other voices who have been erased by history to speak, including Abe's son Willie along with a chorus of ghosts. Yes, Saunder even dabbles in the supernatural to reclaim these lost voices. Language is power and he gives a voice to those silenced from "official history" through a self-reflexive meta-fiction.
If writers like Italo Calvino, Ishmael Reed or even Kurt Vonnegut are considered post-modernist writers for their subversion of literary conventions then would George Saunders be viewed as a post-post modernist writer for his radical deconstructionism? I never thought it were possible to push the boundaries of the novel form this far until now and it makes me wonder: what's next, a novel comprising of grocery lists, scribbles or legal documents? Anyways, for me, Saunders's experimental form worked rather well for the most part to create a compelling narrative and there were some emotionally resonant moments. However, my only problem is that this particular style feels tedious at times and also a bit gimmicky once you figure out what is going on and get attuned to the rhythm of his prose.