A short review of George Saunders' Congratulations, By The Way:
"George," his publisher asked, "We need something for the pipeline. Got anything?" Came the reply, "Well, I did a little convocation speech that has been getting attention online, what about that?" "Hmmmm, I bet we could produce it cheaply and sell it for fourteen dollars, and your name alone would compel people to buy it. At least the libraries." And so, there you are. . . a new book. Does it really contribute anything groundbreaking, uniquely delivered, worthy of the expenditure? No. But it is a nice, quick read and the message is worthwhile. I have enjoyed his work and am likely to read anything that he puts forth---kind of like when I picked up Pat Conroy's cookbook and was pleasantly surprised---so I say, "Go ahead, spend a few minutes with this," even if I feel somewhat offended that it is a bit of a sham that put a few bucks in Saunders' pocket and a lot more in Random House's. Kind of like hearing your favorite musician is coming to town and you scrape up the money and even though their set was wonderful, they only stayed on the stage for fifteen minutes and three old standards. I even felt a little cheated by the illustrations.