The Rumpus Book Club chats with George Saunders about Tenth of December, sudden celebrity, why escalation matters if you’re a writer, and how to stick with a story for twelve years.
This is an edited transcript of the book club discussion. Every month The Rumpus Book Club hosts a discussion online with the book club members and the author and we post an edited version online as an interview. To learn how you can become a member of The Rumpus Book Club click here.
This Rumpus Book Club interview was edited by Rebecca Rubenstein.
Noah S.: Thank you so much for doing this, George.
David B.: Did you say you were on Colbert? How did it go?
George Saunders: My pleasure. Am just so pleased the technology seems to be working—am on satellite. And yes—I did Colbert and Charlie Rose on the same day. If only I’d scheduled a rectal, I could have accomplished the coveted “stress trifecta.”
I think it went okay—was sure fun. He is an amazing, bright, and funny guy. Just fun being around him, honestly.
Noah S.: Charlie Rose has a penetrating gaze.
Brian S: You said something yesterday on Facebook about wearing the same shirt and jacket to both. Do they tape near each other?
George Saunders: They are both in Manhattan but a pretty good distance apart. So I sort of went from one to the next. Plus I was feeling that that shirt/jacket combo were good luck. 🙂 A pretty strange and anthropologically interesting experience. Seeing how the whole thing works etc. etc.
Julie: I thought it was interesting how “scary” it must be for comedians to actually talk about the work. It almost seemed pathological to me the way Colbert kept reflexively bouncing away from discussing anything actually substantive about your great book.
George Saunders: He’s a great improv comedian, and I think that’s the game—to sort of comically skirt the substance—but then he’ll let you get in a shot or two.
David B.: Is this going to explode your readership?
George Saunders: Gotta hope. 🙂 (I find myself using that smiley emoticon a lot here. Hmm. Maybe just assume one in the future.)
Kevin T.: Speaking of TV, I loved that panel on Up with Chris Hayes. You never see that many fiction writers at one time. On camera.
George Saunders: Actually that Times Magazine piece sort of shot things out of a cannon. Very generous, and after that, seems like, the crowds right away got bigger at readings and so on.
David B.: Is it stressful to have this large surge of attention?
George Saunders: It’s not that stressful, honestly. It’s more work—bigger crowds and all of that. But it’s less stressful than going somewhere and having eight people or whatever.
Brian S: Yeah, no writer wants to be the person alone at the table in the bookstore.
George Saunders: And I have been that guy. Trying to milk the last remaining person so you don’t leave too early…
Noah S.: Aside from it being a wonderful book, why do you think that this book exploded out of the gate like it did?
Natasha: I’m wondering the same thing, Noah.
George Saunders: Noah, it seemed like sort of the perfect storm deal—that NY Times profile by Joel Lovell and then, right before and after, some nice reviews in major places. And then, too, to be honest, I could feel—in the preceding five years or so—a slow building going on: bigger attendance at events and more interest from colleges.
Noah S.: Awesome.
Brian S: Which is how we wound up with this book: the packed house at Drake University.
George Saunders: Someone said that they thought part of this was just that the people who were, say, in college when CivilWarLand came out are now in positions of authority—editors and reviewers and so on.
Julie: Maybe it’s as simple as the fact that the book is really fucking great.
Brian S: I think there are a lot of really great books that don’t blow up like this.
George Saunders: In any event it’s pretty fun, and I think maybe more fun at fifty-four than at, say, thirty-five. At this age, you’re just kind of like: huh, interesting. It’s sort of like when you’re walking down the street and you smell some amazing cooking going on inside, and you enjoy it while not really feeling that it’s yours, or “real.” On the other hand, I really like Julie’s theory.
Natasha: I love that description of what it’s like to stumble across this kind of success.
Melissa S.: Are these all recently-written stories? By “recent,” I guess I mean, were you writing them for this collection specifically, or have some been around for a while and just fit in?
George Saunders: No, “Sticks” is circa 1994 (!), and [“The Semplica-Girl Diaries”] I started in ’98 and just finished. Otherwise they’re from 2006 forward.
Noah S.: “Sticks” is an absolute favorite of mine. I followed my girlfriend around the house reading it aloud, because I couldn’t help but share it.
George Saunders: Careful with that. If she is running really fast, stop reading. Actually, on a break last night, Colbert—out of character—read “Sticks” to his audience.
Bobby: That sounds intimidating. Super-famous person reading your work aloud to his audience…
George Saunders: Luckily I was in the Green Room, nearly barfing with relief.
Mira: I actually wonder if maybe your work has gotten the Colbert Bump—not from being on his show, but from his success in pop culture. Like, the success of people like Colbert has helped a wider audience embrace the absurd.
George Saunders: Mira, I think you might be right. There’s a feeling—or has been a feeling—that my weirdness is somehow less weird. Something like that—satire or irony is more mainstream? Not sure.
Ann B: Are you partial to any one of the stories?
George Saunders: At the moment I’m still feeling the “Semplica-Girl” story—because I finished it most recently.
Noah S.: What inspired “Semplica-Girl”?
George Saunders: “Semplica-Girl” came from a dream. I dreamed that I was that guy, looking out our bedroom window, and saw those Semplica Girls—and felt proud, like: finally, I did it! I’ve arrived!
Noah S.: And in the dream they had the microline running between their heads?
George Saunders: Yes, they did—microline and white smocks and long black hair.
Linda M.: I’m curious about the decision to go with the diary format for “Semplica-Girl.” They go so weirdly well together.
George Saunders: The diary idea came from a great book called I Will Bear Witness by Viktor Klemperer—a Holocaust diary. And he doesn’t know, of course, that it’s “the Holocaust”—his gaze is averted to these mundane, everyday things. Also, [it’s] really fun stylistically—all that truncation and so on…
Hannah: I enjoyed the story “Home,” and recently thought there might be a connection with that and the Hemingway short story, “Soldier’s Home”?
George Saunders: Hemingway, yes—although not consciously. Only afterwards I was like: huh. Actually, I was sort of riffing on Euripides, Herakles, but I mangled the plot in my memory…
Hannah: Regarding “Home”: as a military prosecutor I am always shocked by the people that are upset that we court-martial soldiers who have been deployed. It seems like you captured the public’s strange and sometimes misplaced reverence for soldiers…even those who commit crimes.
George Saunders: Yes. Especially with these wars, there’s that sort of auto-patriotic response—maybe a guilt response?
Brian S: But also the rote way in which that service is honored, Hannah.
George Saunders: Right, “rote” is the word.
Brian S: Anyone else get a chill by the end line of “Exhortation”? That riff on Julian of Norwich (or T.S. Eliot, from “Little Gidding”) just sent shivers down my spine, given what the rest of the story was hinting at. Orwellian in a really awesome way.
Janeen: Brian, I got chills so many times throughout the book. I had to read it slowly, because I found it so dark and frightening.
Natasha: What do you think “Exhortation” was hinting at? Maybe I didn’t think too deeply about it because it was starting to get so creepy.
Brian S: I felt like Room 6 in “Exhortation” was, in effect, a torture chamber of some kind. Bad things were happening in there.
Natasha: I can see that. There was certainly something sinister going on in there.
Julie: Can I ask how you get into the head of your characters? Their mentalese is so idiosyncratic and unusual and real. Do they just “come to you”? Do you do a lot of people-watching and are a natural mimic? How do you get in there? When I write, all my characters sound too much like me.
George Saunders: Julie, that is an exquisite and writerly question. They sort of do just come to me; I think of it as improv—with heavy revision.
Julie: It seems then that you must work on multiple pieces of writing at the same time. If this is accurate, how do you do that as well as teach? Do you work on something for a bit then go on to something else and then come back?
George Saunders: Yes, always. I try to have four or five things going so I can gravitate to whatever seems most interesting on that day—keeps it lively and productive, versus working out of a place of unhappiness or boredom. I work on something until it goes cold. Teaching doesn’t seem to bother me much, I just work in [and] around the cracks, so to speak—actually nice to get away from a piece sometimes, you know? So you can see it fresh.
Mira: A lot of your stories are written with multiple narrators. Do you start out writing a story from one character’s P.O.V. first, and then start to wonder how the other players would experience the situation? Or do you see it from multiple viewpoints from the beginning?
George Saunders: I think the idea is usually to limit it to one character, but then the story will start to tell you otherwise—for the story to unfold naturally, it seems to want someone else to get in there and start thinking. Sometimes, it’s just that the first character’s voice can’t accommodate the action, i.e. can’t make it happen convincingly. All very intutive and iterative in the actual doing.
Mira: Yeah, I guess I was kind of rooting around process with that question… Do you edit relentlessly? When I write, I edit over and over and over, and sometimes I worry I’m editing the life out of things. Do you edit a lot? Or do you leave that to others?
George Saunders: I edit a lot. Yes. Over and over. Hundreds of times. My theory is that it’s like decorating an apartment: say I give you a furnished apartment—it wouldn’t feel “like you.” But if I let you take out one item a day and replace it with something you chose, after a year or so, that place would be more “you” than you ever could have conceptualized at the outset. This is what editing is, for me. Trying to move the thing to be more like me than I could have imagined at the outset.
Jack W.: I re-read most of your other books along with Tenth; one serendipitous moment was reading your essay “Thought Experiment” and then reading “Escape From Spiderhead” afterwards. They went together beautifully. A question: do your own works somehow inspire you, i.e. something you’ve already written sparks a new idea?
George Saunders: Yes, and since we’re in such an intimate setting here, I’ll confess that sometimes a story will “fall out” of another. A riff will occur, but not be right for that piece. So I treat it as a gift from the subconscious, like it was in there trying to get out, but blundered into the wrong story, i.e. “Chivalric Fiasco” fell out of “Spiderhead,” etc. etc.
Brian S: My partner is using the book in her senior writing seminar this semester, and I’ll be subbing for her for a couple of classes, so I get to work with “My Chivalric Fiasco.” I’m very excited about it.
Michael: I also had my wife read the book. It’s funny, but I felt like the book expressed a lot of things I’d hidden from her. Unintentionally. I don’t know how to say it another way.
George Saunders: Like what sort of things? Not to pry…
Michael: Nothing particular, but a kind of continuous dilemma—work situations mostly, which I don’t bring home. I’d have to think it through, how to say it, but a sense of working in the wrong moral direction (“Semplica-Girl”) by way of making things what they are for your family. And the sense that death frees you to be moral: really painful.
George Saunders: I get that, Michael, yes—and have felt it.
Natasha: I’m really interested in the theme of parenting and other forms of control (“Escape From Spiderhead,” for instance). Is parenting something that you’ve always explored in your writing?
Noah S.: I was curious about that as well, Natasha. It feels like there’s lots of children in the book, and most of them are in either extremely restrictive or lacking situations.
George Saunders: Lots of parenting yes, and honestly it’s just because that was one hundred percent what our minds were on at the time…so it leached into the stories, for sure.
Noah S.: On the cover of the book, Jennifer Egan calls it “Hilarious…” Do you set out to have these stories make people laugh?
Brian S: It’s the twelve-year-old in me, but I found myself laughing every time I saw a new euphemism for penis.
Noah S.: Totally. There was a reference to “boners” in “Semplica-Girl Diaries” that made me laugh out loud.
Brian S: “Pre-bone” made me snort out loud in public.
Natasha: I agree. Lots of wonderful humor in these stories. Definitely laughed a lot.
George Saunders: I love to make my reader laugh. Love it.
Melissa S.: Speaking of images, some of the stories have some pretty eerie ones (drowning the kittens, boy chained to tree, etc). Do you ever think, Whoa, too far? Has anything been edited out of the book?
George Saunders: I would never say too much—unless the “too much” was also just wrong, i.e. was working against the larger artistic goal of the story. If you go too far, then the job is to justify it: make it worth the shock or disgust.
Melissa S.: How long does it take you to write a story? Have you ever stolen a story idea from one of your students?
George Saunders: Have never knowingly stolen a story from a student, no. And they take, honestly, from three weeks (“Home”) to twelve years (“Semplica-Girl Diaries”).
Melissa S.: Wow, twelve years. And you never put it away. That’s amazing.
Natasha: I wish I’d read the book earlier so I’d have had time to process and really understand the themes. I’m still digesting “Semplica-Girl,” which I adored. And even though you’re lucky enough to have these images come to you in a dream, you must have been amazingly dedicated to keep coming back to it for so many years. Thanks, because it’s so worth it! Did “Semplica-Girl” threaten to turn itself into a novel? It does seem to be the perfect length, but I can imagine getting sidetracked and following more of what’s going on with the other characters.
George Saunders: “Semplica-Girl” tried to be a novel, Natasha, yes, boy did it. I have—embarrassing—but I have at least eight boxes of drafts. Ugh.
Natasha: Wow. Hopefully those boxes won’t string themselves up in your yard.
Hannah: It seemed like you used animals (dogs and a pony, I think) to emphasize poverty. Is this accurate?
Bobby: Has teaching had any positive influence on your writing?
Noah S.: What was your response to Adrian Chen’s “Write A Goddamn Novel Already” piece about you?
Brian S: You’re doing great! We can be a little overwhelming.
Deborah M: Yes, we are bombarding, and you are doing great.
Janeen: So glad there’s a large and lively bunch tonight.
Ann B: Brian, how many of us are there?
Brian S: Pushing thirty.
George Saunders: Yes! No! Boxers! Briefs! Sometimes, but rarely in that exact manner!
Hannah—not intentionally, but seems like it. I don’t do a lot of symbol placement, but my guess is, my subconscious does.
Teaching is all positive, Bobby—we get 600 apps a year and the students we get are so amazing. Fires me up with love for the youngsters, and gives me hope for the future of literature. No downside, honestly, and it just gets sweeter as I get older—a great gift, to get to interact with talented young people who are not necessarily grossed out by you. 🙂
Noah, I actually found that Chen piece sort of sweet. I didn’t mind it a bit and it started a shitstorm, which is always good. The real answer, of course, is (as it so often is) provided by Flannery O’Connor: “A writer can choose what he writes but he can’t choose what he makes live.” Amen.
Noah S.: Do you consider yourself a “dark” writer?
George Saunders: That “darkness” question is interesting. I think what I’m doing is something like that Portuguese Fado music—where every song is ostensibly a dirge, but within each there is overflow that equals joy. So there is like a “negative offset” to each story, but hopefully the reader feels a sort of scale model of the world, where good is there, and bad is, but the whole frame is bent. Something like that.
Brian S: I get that. “Victory Lap” is an undeniable dark story, but it ends with the damage to everyone being mainly scars that they’ll carry with them. But nobody’s dead, so it’s a happy ending in a way.
Deborah M: The “good” definitely flows through the stories, and that’s what remains (rather than the dark details…).
Noah S.: I love that you ended with “Tenth of December”—it felt like the story that best captured that people, amongst all the badness, really do some good things.
Hannah: Why these particular stories in this book?
George Saunders: Those are just basically the stories I wrote during this period. And then the ordering was really the thing…
Linda M.: I am wondering about ordering decisions, as well. I first read “Semplica-Girl” in The New Yorker, on its own. But then, within a collection, the stories bounce off of each other.
George Saunders: The ordering thing…I got a little help from my daughter, who reminded me of how an album is ordered: something to get the person in easily, strong ending, and then pace the middle, so that one story propels the reader to the next. Or, another way to say it, stagger the stronger/weaker stories so the reader can never quite go “meh,” and walk off. 🙂
Janeen: Do you feel like the success of this book will help or hinder you when you sit down to write the next one?
George Saunders: As I get the real, physical sense of how many more readers there are now, it’s a little scary. Like if your party got really crowded, and everyone was waiting for the food. 🙂 But I’ll take it. The more positive way to think about it is to say, Well, they liked that last one, so let me do more of that, be bolder, trust the new readers, and just go for it. I really find that once the shit dies down and I get back in my little writing shed, everything feels pretty okay and normal.
Jack W.: Donald Barthelme is someone you’ve written about (and whose baton I’d declare from rooftops that you’ve been passed) as propelling his readers via a “series of pleasure-bursts,” followed by continual escalation. This seems to apply to your writing, as well. Do you have a method in capturing this feeling in your writing? I, too, find your courage thrilling.
George Saunders: Thanks, Jack. I think the only way is to re-engage with what you’re working on every day as you think a first-time reader might—to read it line by line, monitoring your own pleasure. When the pleasure goes down, something is off. Or—”pleasure” might not be the exact word. But you are sort of scanning the prose to see what it is causing to happen. And adjusting accordingly, in the only way possible, i.e. micro-adjustments of the sentences and phrases…
Ana: I have a rather focused question I wanted to make a point to ask. I was at a book reading recently with Junot Díaz, where people were asking about developing an ability to write about race. He lamented the fact more writers weren’t asked about race in their writing like, for example, George Saunders. So I thought I would ask: people talked about “write about race” as a sort of muscle you have to engage, train, and strengthen. Do you feel like that is a muscle you have developed, or worked on?
George Saunders: I’m not sure. I tend not to think, you know, that a story is “about” race, or gender, but it’s about people struggling against something or other. So those other things sort of get subsumed in that. Or, you know, “race” is part of a larger narrative about trying to be human. Hmm. Great question, but I am sort of going too fast here. Let me think about that one…
Mira: You write a lot about class and capitalism. Can you say something about how you see the role of writer—and, I guess, artist—in our culture? I’m thinking of the book The Gift here, and the idea of art as being beyond commerce. Curious about your thoughts on that.
Ana: Mira, I’m really interested in that question. Going off that, I was thinking back on the two stories, “Victory Lap” and “My Chivalric Fiasco,” and the characters’ interventions at different stages—both to varying degrees of success—driven by some sort of imperative. And I guess I’m wondering if you feel any similar imperative in the role as a writer to intervene in “injustice”? I love how both stories show the complex motivations and complicated success of such an endeavor.
George Saunders: Mira, I think that, when I’m writing, I try not to think about the role of the writer at all—when I do, I fuck things up; everything gets too literal. I mean, I kind of do that anyway. But I just trust that if I am trying to get the story to stand up and walk, and my heart is basically in the right place, then I’ll be fulfilling the correct role, if that makes sense…like a musician might have ideas about social justice and all of that, but the main and first job is to kick ass.
Ana, I think the main struggle, in the actual writing, is to come up with something important and then, once that’s in place, try to complicate it in a way that somehow escalates matters. Like, in that “Fiasco” story, the rape is major. I think the reader feels the horror and injustice of that, even with that comic/minimal prose style. So then you have that to work with: the feeling of wanting justice. And then you go: okay, so how can I now complicate that beat called “the feeling of wanting justice”? Well, she doesn’t want justice. She wants silence. So he complies. Now—how can we make him not comply? Etc. etc. So the thinking, such as it is, is coming from inside the situation, as opposed to being imposed from the outside.
Natasha: Escalating matters—that’s what I’m working on in my writing (I’m a playwright). I’m finding it takes much more planning and thought than I wish it did!
George Saunders: Yes, escalation is the golden ticket, isn’t it? I did an exercise in one of my classes—I played this crazy-ass song called “The Arizona Yodeler” by The Dezurik Sisters (circa 1938), that is nothing but escalation. They yodel, they whistle, they do these crazy mouth-sounds—and it’s a great way to isolate escalation as a very exciting thing, separate from content—the song is completely silly, has no content—but everyone in the room is grinning like crazy by the end. I recommend it highly.
Ann Nash: I appreciate getting into your head with writing with escalating complications. Perfect goal. Thank you.
We read your puppy story in our nonfiction class two years ago. Lots of heated discussion followed. It brings out a lot in those with and without children. Experience with [parenting] tempers judgment towards both mothers. How did you come to write “Puppy”?
Janeen: Ann, that story just slays me.
Natasha: I can see “Puppy” being read as part of the standard curriculum in high school classrooms in twenty years. I’d have loved to have it in mine.
Michael: The puppy story was the first one I read. How being a parent changed my perspective on that one! I don’t think I’d have got it the same way in high school.
George Saunders: “Puppy” was…we drove by a house in upstate New York, and there was a kid in the yard, on some sort of harness. And he seemed pretty happy. And we (my wife and then-baby daughters) were feeling, at least in my mind, sort of, you know, yuppie. In our new Nissan and all. So I had that in my mind for about five years, that basic setup. And then Zadie Smith asked if I had something for this Other People anthology, and that came out.
My dog is really pissed off that I am typing so late. And I just, twice, typed “my god is really pissed off.”
Melissa S.: “My god is really pissed off.” Best short short since “Baby Shoes, Never Worn.”
Hannah: Glad to see you have a dog. Hopefully bettered cared for than the ones in your stories.
Natasha: George, do you have any advice about writing process and other things that help you write successfully? If you wrote a book for aspiring writers, what would it boil down to?
George Saunders: I think it’s simpler than we’re taught, and I think it has to do with trying—or being willing to—entertain, in your own unique way. Or “compel.” I had a long period where I was trying to write with my head—to be smart or thematic or whatever, and not only was I not smart, I was boring. And my big breakthrough, if you want to call it that, came when I realized that, in life, I liked to be funny and strange and fast—and maybe those were literary virtues, after all. So with my students, I often find it’s a matter of somehow leading them to a place where they feel comfortable with their own real and natural strengths, and thereby free to walk away from approaches that confine them or feel false…
Natasha: Yes! That’s probably why your writing is, as I described to my boyfriend earlier today, “not highbrow,” even though you’re a renowned literary star these days. Willingness to write from your own reality is probably a big part of that.
Melissa S.: What you said about not wanting your students to feel confined—boy, is that ever true. I am friends with one of your former students and his entire (amazing) novel is so out-of-the box and free. So refreshing.
My husband saw you read at BookPeople in Austin the other night (I drew the short straw and had to stay home with the kiddo). He told me you read from “Spiderhead.” What made you decide to read that particular section, and how do you choose what you will read, generally?
Brian S: As an addendum to Melissa’s question: are there times on the book tour that you change up what you’re reading to keep from getting bored with your work?
George Saunders: I used to read whole stories at readings—thirty or thirty-five minutes. But now that the crowds are bigger and the signings take longer, the stores seem to be suggesting ten to fifteen minutes. And really, whoever left a reading going: damn, he read too short? I sort of just experiment and see what might make an entertaining ten-minute reading. Still am. At colleges, I read “Victory Lap” and I love doing that. I try to do all the voices and so on, which keeps it fresh. For me anyway.
Brian S: It was a killer performance in Des Moines. I’ve never seen that many people at a college reading, and that many people just rapt with attention.
Ana: I saw you read from “Home” earlier this month. It was very interesting hearing your voices, which is not how the story sounded in my head! I also loved watching you engage with [Deborah] Eisenberg, whose book I bought that night. Do you have a preference or not when it comes to doing joint readings?
George Saunders: I love joint readings if the person reading with me is as wonderful as Deborah. She is the bomb. Such a sweetheartand a genius, for real.
Ana: I’m really loving her stories, which I hadn’t read before. And thought it was so interesting how she was almost forced to take up writing as a result of quitting smoking.
George Saunders: The other amazing thing about Deborah that night was she was very, very sick. I mean high fever. And still killed it, right?
Brian S: Five minutes, everyone—any lurkers want to get in a last-minute question?
Kevin T.: With the obvious exception of “My Chivalric Fiasco,” it looks like you’re about done with theme parks. Have you mined everything out of them that you can? Has child-rearing replaced them as a preoccupation? Are there more theme parks in the pipeline?
George Saunders: I might be done with theme parks, but you never know. I really just am looking for a few good sentences to start me off, and I honestly don’t care where it’s set or what it’s about—just so it confuses and intrigues me and sort of obscures the trail, i.e. keeps me from repeating myself (too much).
Melissa S.: What are you reading right now?
Natasha: Ooh, I’d love to hear what your reading list is, too. Favorite books? Movies? What makes your short list?
George Saunders: Read Europeana (Ourednik) and Senselessness (Moya), and a really funny galley by Jack Handey called The Stench of Honolulu—he’s the Deep Thoughts guy. I just saw an incredibly sweet documentary called Buck, about a guy who breaks horses in a new and gentler way, because he was abused as a kid. Also read, for the first time, Tolstoy’s Resurrection, which I thought was about as dark a book as I’ve ever read, and totally convincing regarding the savagery of the rich-poor divide. That one killed me. He has this bit about how a human being should never act, at all, unless he/she is “feeling love.” Radical.
Noah S.: Buck is so incredible. The part with the crazy horse still appears in my dreams sometimes.
George Saunders: Yes. That poor crazy horse. Ruined by its owner, mostly.
Janeen: Are you working on new stuff now, or just taking a break (or, well, traveling and appearing everywhere)?
George Saunders: I have a new thing started, but I’m taking a big break with the new book. I think I’ll be able to get back to work in a month—although I have to also read for Syracuse admissions. We got 566 apps for six spots. 🙁
Brian S: Okay, that’s the hour, so we’re going to cut off questions.
David B.: Thanks, George, for staying up late.
Ann Nash: Thanks, George, for out-of-the-box writing. Inspirational to us all.
Ana: Thank you! Best of luck with all your work this year.
Julie: Yes, thanks so much for doing this. I sort of feel like there was the world-before-reading-George-Saunders and now the world-after-reading-George-Saunders. Mind-blowing and amazing. Please keep writing for a very long time.
Brian S: Any chance you’ll be in Boston for the AWP convention?
George Saunders: Brian—I will be in Boston. Syracuse is doing a 50th anniversary event.
Bobby: I will come and give you a high-five at AWP then, if that’s cool?
George Saunders: Bobby—definitely. Or just bring me a drink. Thank you all so much for your generosity—really enjoyed this.
Brian S: Thanks again, George. Hope to run into you in Boston.
Author photo © Basso Cannarsa/Opale