Outtakes from Phil

My metaphor for fiction is: A juggler on one of those airport PeopleMovers. The challenge is two-fold: Keep the juggler juggling (ie, make sure every scene has some entertainment value) while keeping the PeopleMover moving (i.e., make sure each scene moves the story forward). The challenge with The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, as I came to understand it, as I worked on the book as a beloved little side project from 1999 to 2005, was to keep the PeopleMover lurching forward – trying to keep the reader slightly behind the arc of his/her expectation. Once I realized the story was basically: Egomaniacal Guy Decides to Eliminate Smaller Weaker Neighboring Nation, then it was a question of having him do this a little quicker than is comfortable. For that reason, a lot of these scenes – which I liked, and enjoyed writing, and informed my idea of the world – had to go, because they, in the context of the book, slowed things down, made a story that I hoped would feel catastrophic and a little scary, feel leisurely. But I hope you enjoy them. They’re not in any particular order – they were written at various times, in the service of various outlines, etc – but you’ll see that some of them are causally related. In some, Inner Horner has been totally eliminated; in others various Outer Hornerites are struggling against Phil. In some, the media men have doubts they don’t have in the final version. For me, storytelling is about running up and down cul de sacs – these outtakes represent detrital evidence of this neurotic but enjoyable process. Thanks for having a look.

– George Saunders

Outtake #1 A Visit with Phil’s Mother...

Outtake #2 After Freeda’s Death, Melvin Realizes He Has Always Loved Her

Outtake #3 Inner Horner is Eliminated and the Meadow of Peace is Miraculously Created

Outtake #4 Having Eliminated Inner Horner, Phil Introduces the Loyalty Suspenders

Outtake #5 A Final Visit with the Former President

Outtake #6 Solutions to the Lost Brain Dilemma

Outtake #7 Phil Decides to Eliminate Inner Horner, and that His Palace is Crap

Outtake #8 In which Vance Has a Nightmare,
and Phil Give the Special Friends a Present

Outtake #9 Bickering in Inner Horner

Outtake #10 The Excised Incident Involving Delmore Bwight, Sr. — Who Witnessed a Series of Disassemblies while Sitting in the Outer Horner Cafe, and has Returned Home to Contemplate This

Outtake #11 A Cowardly Act of Dissent is Boldly Refuted

Outtake #12 The Deleterious Effect of Overzealous Reporting during a Disassembly

Outtake #13 Carol’s Plan to Save Her Nation