Borges occupies an almost mythic place in the literary world. He possesses a special kind of prowess that allows him to combine esoteric philosophy and varied references to different cultures and literature with deft plotting. Who else writes about an encyclopedia with an obscure reference to a country that does not exist? Or about a man who sets out to re-create Don Quixote by living as Cervantes did in 17th-century Spain? Only Borges does, and he does so with such ingenuity and skill that all writers who follow in his footsteps will seem like weak echoes.
George Saunders is the writer that we need right now in the age of corporate greed and rising fascism. In what I opine to be Saunders' best collection, he imagines the world as a place of unfettered capitalism where the avoidance of watching commercials is punishable by law and where the biggest celebrities are the ones who test products made for the most marketable demographic. It is a world where going against the majority can literally result in your non-existence. Saunders' words have the tune of prophecy in them, and it seems that in reading his words, there is hope for us yet to avoid the troubling world he so eloquently writes about.
Don't be fooled by the glacial pace that Gilead operates in, because the slowness of the novel, which I believe is deliberate, creates a ruminative atmosphere that is necessary for the novel to work. Robinson, who writes Gilead as an epistolary novel, tackles spirituality, forgiveness, and family by focusing on the life of a dying pastor in Gilead, Iowa. By focusing on the minutiae of small-town life, Robinson presents the idea that religion and spirituality can exist as a personal but deeply felt experience instead of a revelatory and grand epiphany. In times filled with anger, Robinson's Gilead is the balm that we need to counteract all the noise.