Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tent City

Last April, author George Saunders stayed for one week in a 300-person homeless tent city in Fresno, California. His 12,000 word piece on the experience appears in the current issue of GQ magazine.

As will be seen, truth was relative within the Study Area. Truth is relative everywhere but was even more relative within the Study Area. Anything anyone ever claimed during the Study was, at some point, directly contradicted by something someone else claimed. Stories within the Study Area, as will be seen, were rife with exaggeration, omission, or fabrication. It is postulated that this was related to the hardship of material conditions within the Study Area, as well as the prevalence of mental illness within the Study Area. The relation between mental illness and residency within the Study Area is worthy of further study. In some cases, mental illness seemed to be the reason for residence within the Study Area. In other cases, residence within the Study Area seemed to be causing mental illness in individuals who, in a less stressful setting, might not have been mentally ill at all.

On his website he writes "...It was a very moving, sort of scary experience, that had the effect of re-energizing certain tendencies in my fiction and in me as a person, I guess, among these: respect for the real; a distrust of the American capitalist juggernaut; suspicion of my own Pollyannaish tendencies; new enthusiasm for the variety and weirdness of the world."

You can read the full story over 21 mini-pages on GQ's website, though I very much recommend that you read it here, on one long page.

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