4/02/2014

Thinking about George Saunders



If you were to ask me who is my favorite author, I might answer George Saunders (depending on what day it is). He has written mostly short stories and a couple of novels that are funny, thought provoking and usually set in a near distant future or alternate universe. His protagonists are hapless, well meaning strivers doing their best in insanely difficult situations. When I read him I wonder how he manages to create satire that is biting yet radiates love and good will.

His masterful piece, The Semplica Girls, was published in his collection of short stories, The 10th of September, and also in the New Yorker. I had to read it a few times to "get it" (basically, what are the SGs?), and it hasn't left my mind since. I've been putting together a list of online reading sources for 9th graders, and came across an interview with George Saunders where he talked about writing the story and what inspires him.  It turns out he believes the best story ever written was The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol--the 19th Russian (actually Ukranian) author who specialized in the grotesque and the surreal. It's been a long time since I've read him, but it makes sense--and now I have to revisit Gogol! And, based on the picture above, somebody has made the connection between Saunders and Twain, so maybe revisiting Twain is in my future, too.

Not only is George Saunders a fantastic writer, he also on the faculty of the MFA Creative Writing program at Syracuse University.  I met Mr. Saunders at a library convention a couple of years ago and he told me that all students in the program get a full, 100% scholarship PLUS a stipend for living expenses. I believe this is the only program in the country that does this. As they state on their website:

"We admit students who come from all walks of life and believe they should not be saddled with student-loan payments when they graduate. Talent, not wealth, is the sole prerequisite for admission."

Recommended reading

An Interview with George Saunders
The 10th of December by George Saunders  FIC Sau (in our library)
The Semplica Girls
The Overcoat

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