Video Book Review: Lincoln in the Bardo (audiobook version)

…Plus thoughts on Tenth of December

View this video review of George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo and many other bookish things on my YouTube channel here.

One-sentence book summary:
George Saunders uses a host of research materials and voices to recreate Willy Lincoln’s last night alive, and the feelings poor Abe had in the aftermath.

My first thought:
Oh good, George Saunders has a new book!

To talk about looking forward to this one, I have to start with the source of my George Saunders fandom:

I had read and loved Tenth of December, Saunders’ collection of short stories. They’re offbeat, and show the minutiae of middle to upper class everyday life, while sometimes mocking its trappings.

My favorite of those stories: “The Semplica-Girl Diaries.” That one still haunts my thoughts months after reading. I keep wondering about the backstory. How the heck did they start doing that in the first place? So strange. So strange. And so of course, I love it.

Read “The Semplica-Girl Diaries” for free here, courtesy of The New Yorker.

My second thought:
What the hell is a bardo?

Google to the rescue – a bardo is a Tibetan word meaning that space between death and rebirth. A good part of this book takes place in a bardo, but really, the bardo scenes are a bit extraneous for me.

The real meat lies in the account of Willy Lincoln’s death. It occurred during a fancy dinner party. A full cast of characters recounts it in the audiobook version of Lincoln in the Bardo.

It’s wonderful fun, hearing the full cast of characters. The main drawback: the constant stops for research attribution make it impossible to get into the flow of the story.

But the performances are brilliant. The book’s concept is innovative. The heartbreak Nick Offerman lends to Abe Lincoln’s grieving voice is devastating. Devastating.

Even though Lincoln in the Bardo isn’t my favorite, I appreciate his willingness to do something so different.

I’ll still wait with baited breath for Saunders’ next one.

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