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The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil

by

The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil Cover

 

Staff Pick

TBaFRoP has garnered many a comparison to Animal Farm. Fair enough: they're both novella-length, political fables written by men named George. But Saunders is so much funnier — and more playful. If you haven't read his work, here's a perfect place to start.
Recommended by Dave, Powells.com

Review-A-Day

"The illustrations and the diminutive size of the book may be a testament to [Saunders's] genius. The same goes for his humor. With less humor and lightness, the read would be unbearable. The subject is devastating enough, and Saunders's treatment of it encourages engagement rather than alienation." Margaret Luongo, The Cincinnati Review (read the entire review from the Cincinnati Review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, George Saunders offers his most boldly imaginative fiction yet.

In a profoundly strange country called Inner Horner, large enough for only one resident at a time, citizens waiting to enter the country fall under the rule of the power-hungry and tyrannical Phil, setting off a chain of injustice and mass hysteria.

An Animal Farm for the 21st century, this is an incendiary political satire of unprecedented imagination, spiky humor, and cautionary appreciation for the hysteric in everyone. Over six years in the writing, and brilliantly and beautifully packaged, this novella is Saunders' first stand-alone, book-length work — and his first book for adults in five years.

Review:

"The shift of target to Iraq War-era America proves problematic for major 1990s satirist Saunders (Pastoralia), who here checks in with an allegorical novella centered on the tiny imaginary nations of Inner and Outer Horner. The citizens of Inner Horner, live-and-let-livers who have a lot of unproductive discussions, are countable on two hands, and they are not-quite-human: one man's torso is simply a tuna fish can and a belt. (There are 15 b&w illustrations scattered throughout.) When their nation suddenly shrinks, the group spills into Outer Horner, and a border dispute results. It paves the way for the rise of an everyman Outer Horner dictator named Phil — a jingoistic, brute-force bully. The eventual fortuitous military intervention by Greater Keller, a neighboring technocapitalist nation of latte drinkers, comes after much lingering over the mechanics of Phil's coup. (There are multiple references to the 'spasming rack' from which Phil's brain periodically slides.) Despite press-chat comparisons to Animal Farm, the book lacks Orwell's willingness to follow his nightmare vision all the way out to the end. Saunders delivers some very funny exchanges and imaginative set-pieces, but literally has to call in a deus ex machina to effect Outer Horner's final undoing. It's entertaining, but politics and war don't really work that way, allegorically or otherwise. (Sept. 20)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"George Saunders consistently pulls off the remarkable in his work: he crafts wildly inventive, often hilarious stories that slice deep into a reader's mind and heart. In this short illustrated novel, Saunders has written a playful fable for adults that manages to be substantive and timely while never losing Saunders's brilliant, bizarre touch." Tin House magazine

Review:

"[A]n absurdist wit as playful as Monty Python's and a vision as dark as Samuel Beckett's....Tightly packed with detail, dialogue and black humor..." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

Review:

"All this can be amusing, even if it doesn't betray much effort; this is just talent speaking, the comic voice without the woundedness or anger that truly animates the satirist, like Saunders himself in his earlier work." Eric Weinberger, The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"The book is a riff — and a very amusing one, I hasten to add — on any number of 20th-century monstrosities, not a straight metaphor on the chilling developments of our own time, international and domestic." Boston Globe

Review:

"The reader does not care enough about any of these characters....There's no pulse here, and thus the book makes less of an impression than it should." Kansas City Star

Synopsis:

An utterly different kind of novel from the beloved author of Pastoralia and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline.

Synopsis:

In a profoundly strange country called Inner Horner, large enough for only one resident at a time, citizens waiting to enter the country fall under the rule of the power-hungry and tyrannical Phil, setting off a chain of injustice and mass hysteria.

An Animal Farm for the 21st century, this is an incendiary political satire of unprecedented imagination, spiky humor, and cautionary appreciation for the hysteric in everyone. Over six years in the writing, and brilliantly and beautifully packaged, this novella is Saunders' first stand-alone, book-length work—and his first book for adults in five years.

From the author of Tenth of December...

About the Author

George Saunders is the author of the New York Times Notable Books CivilWarLand in Bad Decline and Pastoralia. He is the three-time recipient of the National Magazine Award, and a four-time recipient of the O. Henry Award. Nominated for the PEN/Hemingway Award for First Fiction, Saunders is currently director of the Creative Writing Program at Syracuse University, where he has received a Graduate Teaching Award. A new collection, The Red Bow, will be published in 2006.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

onewildmind, October 6, 2006 (view all comments by onewildmind)
Is there anything more intriguing than political misjustice, twisted social norms and oh yeah, a robot'esque manegerie of citizens? I bought this slim book one cold night over winter. I started reading it on the streetcar on my way home. A mere hour and a half later I had finished the book and I was laughing out loud in enjoyment. The book isn't especially funny but the irony and social commentary is riviting and twisted. Saunders has a uniquely odd outlook on what it is that makes us humans tick. Here in, The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil he entertains with unusual situations and radical conjugations of characters that conjure an uneasy and shifty response in the reader. I thank Saunders for this quirky investigation of the human condition and the fictional partrayal of what it is to be real, maliscious, hysterical, sad and mad. I highly recommend this brief read it will change your opinion of the human race and will leave you uneasy in your place in society.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(20 of 36 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9781594481529
Author:
Saunders, George
Publisher:
Riverhead Books
Subject:
General
Subject:
Citizenship
Subject:
Power (Social sciences)
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Fantasy fiction
Subject:
Humorous fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Paperback / softback
Publication Date:
September 6, 2005
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
144
Dimensions:
7.08x5.04x.34 in. .34 lbs.
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Humor » General
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Sale Books

The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil Used Trade Paper
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$9.95 In Stock
Product details 144 pages Riverhead Books - English 9781594481529 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

TBaFRoP has garnered many a comparison to Animal Farm. Fair enough: they're both novella-length, political fables written by men named George. But Saunders is so much funnier — and more playful. If you haven't read his work, here's a perfect place to start.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "The shift of target to Iraq War-era America proves problematic for major 1990s satirist Saunders (Pastoralia), who here checks in with an allegorical novella centered on the tiny imaginary nations of Inner and Outer Horner. The citizens of Inner Horner, live-and-let-livers who have a lot of unproductive discussions, are countable on two hands, and they are not-quite-human: one man's torso is simply a tuna fish can and a belt. (There are 15 b&w illustrations scattered throughout.) When their nation suddenly shrinks, the group spills into Outer Horner, and a border dispute results. It paves the way for the rise of an everyman Outer Horner dictator named Phil — a jingoistic, brute-force bully. The eventual fortuitous military intervention by Greater Keller, a neighboring technocapitalist nation of latte drinkers, comes after much lingering over the mechanics of Phil's coup. (There are multiple references to the 'spasming rack' from which Phil's brain periodically slides.) Despite press-chat comparisons to Animal Farm, the book lacks Orwell's willingness to follow his nightmare vision all the way out to the end. Saunders delivers some very funny exchanges and imaginative set-pieces, but literally has to call in a deus ex machina to effect Outer Horner's final undoing. It's entertaining, but politics and war don't really work that way, allegorically or otherwise. (Sept. 20)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "The illustrations and the diminutive size of the book may be a testament to [Saunders's] genius. The same goes for his humor. With less humor and lightness, the read would be unbearable. The subject is devastating enough, and Saunders's treatment of it encourages engagement rather than alienation." (read the entire review from the Cincinnati Review)
"Review" by , "George Saunders consistently pulls off the remarkable in his work: he crafts wildly inventive, often hilarious stories that slice deep into a reader's mind and heart. In this short illustrated novel, Saunders has written a playful fable for adults that manages to be substantive and timely while never losing Saunders's brilliant, bizarre touch."
"Review" by , "[A]n absurdist wit as playful as Monty Python's and a vision as dark as Samuel Beckett's....Tightly packed with detail, dialogue and black humor..."
"Review" by , "All this can be amusing, even if it doesn't betray much effort; this is just talent speaking, the comic voice without the woundedness or anger that truly animates the satirist, like Saunders himself in his earlier work."
"Review" by , "The book is a riff — and a very amusing one, I hasten to add — on any number of 20th-century monstrosities, not a straight metaphor on the chilling developments of our own time, international and domestic."
"Review" by , "The reader does not care enough about any of these characters....There's no pulse here, and thus the book makes less of an impression than it should."
"Synopsis" by , An utterly different kind of novel from the beloved author of Pastoralia and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline.
"Synopsis" by ,

In a profoundly strange country called Inner Horner, large enough for only one resident at a time, citizens waiting to enter the country fall under the rule of the power-hungry and tyrannical Phil, setting off a chain of injustice and mass hysteria.

An Animal Farm for the 21st century, this is an incendiary political satire of unprecedented imagination, spiky humor, and cautionary appreciation for the hysteric in everyone. Over six years in the writing, and brilliantly and beautifully packaged, this novella is Saunders' first stand-alone, book-length work—and his first book for adults in five years.

From the author of Tenth of December...

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