Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil

George Saunders' The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil is a really strange and very funny political satire. There are two countries, Outer Horner, and Inner Horner, inhabited by creatures so strange you can barely picture them but with very ordinary names like Phil, Larry, Cal and the like. Inner Horner is so small that only of its citizens can be in there at one time, which then prompts a power hungry Outer Hornerite named Phil to create a crisis for his own violent political benefit.

Nationalist abuses abound, with natural resources becoming the source of conflict. For example, Outer Hornerites have a national drinking song, "Large, Large, Large, Beloved Land (If Not the Best, Why So Very Dominant?)" Phil creates border problems and then blames the Inner Hornerites for being lazy, dirty, and aggressive.

Meanwhile, the media hovers around him, shouting out headlines intended to reflect well on whoever is in power, then dump on those out of power. The political messages are blunt but still entertaining.

Apparently he wrote it on a dare.


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