Hanging Out With George Saunders

Truth be told, I did not actually hang out with George Saunders, if by that phrase you mean sit and have a beer at a bar with a guy who’s a very fine short story writer and essayist.  But Monday night at Stanford, when George Saunders was the Lane Lecturer and read an essay and a story and then answered some questions (including, “where does all this come from?”), I really did feel like I had hung out with him even though I was just one of a lot of people cracking up at every other sentence out of his mouth.

Laughter does that.  (I also hang out with David Sedaris, Richard Russo and Mark Twain.)  A guy who makes fun of all that is pompous in the world is your friend, without question.  He knows how much that pomposity has bummed you out in the past, because it used to hurt him too before he figured out he could just make fun of it.  Plus, Saunders also has things to say about redemption and compassion.  And he doesn’t like big companies very much.

I’ve been to hear other Lane Lectures at Stanford — last year I heard Colm Toibin and Ian McEwan read.  But Monday night’s was by far the best attended.  The guy doesn’t even write novels, so the turn-out amazed me.  But then he read his two pieces and I could see why so many Stanford undergraduates had foregone their usual five mile run to hear him.  He’s funny and crazy and something about that really draws you in.

If you don’t know his work, it can be found online here.  An interview is here.  And the first thing I ever read that he’d written — a passionate defense of literary journals — can be found here

Oh, and the answer to “where does all this come from?” is “I just start writing about some small thing and before I know it crazy things happen.”


7 thoughts on “Hanging Out With George Saunders

  1. This is the coolest, Bloglily, thank you. I wonder if it’s ok to not (yet?) be an author (me) and LOVE to hear and read about writing? This post fascinates me, and I will definitely be checking out the links you’ve made to Geoge Saunders’ writing.

  2. I’m a huge Saunders fan as well, especially of his essays. I’m jealous that you got to hear him talk! I did track him down in a church parking lot once to get him to sign his first book of stories …

  3. I love his stuff and the first piece I read was his rip-off of Sarah Palin in The New Yorker. Anyone who read that and could still vote for her had to be, well, differently-minded I guess. I’m going to check out those links now. Thanks.

  4. Pete, I’m so glad to hear that. And what a nice euphemism — the differently-minded. I hope you enjoy the links.

    Hello Dorothy — This lecture series is wonderful. It’s free (and even the parking was free!), and although we arrived a few minutes before the reading began, there were plenty of seats. I’m just so impressed with Stanford for putting the series on. (I also love thinking of you tracking him down in a church parking lot. You are a woman after my own heart.)

    Dear Michelle, You are not alone in finding his work very odd. The woman who asked that question at the reading had this look of complete befuddlement on her face when she asked him where on earth his stuff came from. I think this kind of thing grows on you (or doesn’t), but I love it that he exists, in all his good heartedness, generosity and talent.

  5. I really must read George Saunders. I know I’ve been saying it for a while now, but if you and Dorothy are both big fans, well, what can I possibly do but get on with The Braindead Megaphone? And I loved that link to his article on literary magazines. It was such a good take on them.

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