For several years I’ve been hearing about George Saunders George Saunders George Saunders blah blah blah. I don’t read much fiction so I had not encountered his work nor did I want to seek it out and the more I heard about freaking George Saunders the less I wanted to read this darling of the literati. Then Lincoln in the Bardo Lincoln in the Bardo blah blah blah, big book award, yeah yeah yeah. Sounded weird, I had no interest. Then two friends whose taste I respect both chimed in, and I thought, oh, all RIGHT, for crying out loud.
So I started it and for the first third I was all yeah yeah right please give me a break. Then bam. I loved it. I loved that freaking book. Dammit.
But I moved on and settled back into my nonfiction and poetry reading mode and ignored the existence of George freaking Saunders. And then boom there he is in the new AWP Writer’s Chronicle. I paged past it, read other articles, looked at ads, the classifieds. Oh for crying out loud, all RIGHT, I’ll read whatever it is he’s going on about. Geesh.
And I loved it. And I laughed out loud. And I found it useful, and thoughtful. Crap. I love this George freaking Saunders. Which is why I hate George Saunders.
Stuff he wrote:
First, he quotes Gerald Stern with this fantastic bit: “If you start out to write a poem about two dogs fucking, and you write a poem about two dogs fucking, then…you wrote a poem about two dogs fucking.” Exactly the problem.
Then he writes this: “The individual writer’s ‘craft,’ might be understood, then, as the process of conspiring to work oneself into the necessary state of mystification, such that one is deferring to the innate energy of the story, rather than overriding it.”
He talks about “the goal of establishing an intimate, frank, and respectful relationship with our imaginary reader.”
And this: “…when we write, we ritually remind ourselves that everybody in this world is on a continuum with us and is therefore somewhat knowable to us.”
And: “It is the essential thing that human beings do: we story-tell in order to locate ourselves in the universe, to concoct a viable stance for ourselves here amid the chaos, and forge a less-insane connection with other beings.”