By Alyssa Gillon
As per his typical style, satirist George Saunders creates an allegorical absurdist backdrop teeming with bizarre inhuman characters in his novella “The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil.”
“Welcome to Inner Horner,” the book jacket reads, “a nation so small it can only accommodate one citizen at a time.” From the surrounding land of Outer Horner arises Phil, a caustically bitter mechanical conglomeration, equipped with “a spasming rack” from which his brain habitually slides, and he has come to collect taxes and terrorize the defenseless citizens of Inner Horner.
Although most of Saunders’s allegorical elements do not reveal a direct and obvious correlation to specific human events, his work skims above the surface and occasionally dips down into “our world,” generating a greater truth that connects to multiple Americanisms.
This novella is a captivating, entertaining allegorical tease, but do not expect Saunders to delve too deeply into the politics his story evokes, as the ending to his story involves a “clean sweep” and rebuilding that only the author can create.