Ben Stiller first expressed interest in filming George Saunders’ CivilWarLand in Bad Decline (excerpt here) in 1997. Now Saunders has finished the screenplay and Stiller plans to seek funding to film it after he finishes shooting, um, Meet the Fockers. (Via The Morning News.)
In an old interview with Contemporary Authors, Saunders talked about the inspiration for the book:
I wrote CivilWarLand in Bad Decline while working as a technical writer and engineer at an environmental engineering company in Rochester, New York. In retrospect, I can see in that book a lot of what I was living through at the time as an underpaid, under-respected, aging lackey. My wife and I were broke, with bad cars and little babies at home and, though this certainly wasn’t the gulag, it was perhaps my first hint that disaster was not only possible but probable, and that our country is not particularly kind to all of its citizens, and that this unkindness takes a toll on our grace and generosity and our collective peace of mind. At the time, these were just little shouts, written when I was supposed to be writing technical reports or on the bus or late at night. The darkness and satire come, I guess, from the prevailing mode of storytelling on the south side of Chicago where, if you want to tell someone you love him, you generally pretend to knee him in the groin, then throw him in the pool while guffawing.
It seems to me that life is a dark proposition, or can be, and that we must bear this in mind as we construct our political and moral systems. The traits and abilities that allow some of us to become rich, remain healthy, travel, wallow in good food and drink, or enthusiastically sing the praises of life have been doled out in advance, and not equitably, and we can take no real credit for these. Capitalism is the systematic taking-of-credit for these and must, it seems to me, be tempered with great doses of kindness and empathy if it is to avoid being cruel.