The setting of Al Roosten is a Local Celebrity Auction, a charity event organized by a small town chamber of commerce to raise money to fight drugs. According to Al Roosten, the title character, himself and Donfrey are “the twin pillars of the local business community.” But in reality, Al is running a failing business while supporting his divorced sister and her three sons when Donfrey is in fact a success. On top of it, Donfrey is better looking, has an attractive wife and two kids, and a big mansion. So it doesn’t take long for Al to start boiling with jealousy and act out his frustration!
Al Roosten is not my favorite in the collection, mostly because Al is not likable. He is a self-loathing, bitter individual beyond redemption, in my opinion. But it, like other short stories by Saunders, is both witty and funny. The highlight for me was when Saunders introduced Al’s mom in Heaven tapping her foot and giving Al disapproving looks! Highly recommended.