Earlier this month, the New York Times magazine featured the guy pictured above in a cover story entitled “George Saunders Has Written The Best Book You’ll Read This Year”. Check it out here.
Who is George Saunders, you ask?
Quite possibly the best writer of his generation. He specializes in the form many have attempted and (very) few have done successfully, the short story.
Check out his work here and pick up one of his collections.
My .02: If you like your writing brilliant, amusing, slightly (and sometimes way) off-center and occasionally devastating, he’s your guy.
If you’re looking for a place to start, the brilliantly titled In Persuasion Nation should do the trick. It is an excellent introduction to the Saunders sensibility (you’ll know what I mean once you read a story or two). By the time you’ve got some of his stories under your belt, you’ll realize Saunders is not only an important writer, but he has cultivated a distinct style. Anyone who has ever tried to write understands how exceedingly difficult this is to achieve.
In addition, the aforementioned collection features one of the best short stories I’ve read this past decade, “The Red Bow” (which I originally read in Esquire). You can read it online here.
(Without giving too much away, I’d suggest it’s not only the best piece of fiction written about 9/11, it’s arguably the best piece of writing, period, about 9/11 (the causes, effects, aftermath, etc.) that I’ve come across. So there’s that. And with news that the overdue closing of Guantanamo is looking less likely anytime soon –more on that here, here, and my own thoughts, from over four years ago, here– this story is a reminder of how far we’ve fallen in such a short time. And it also serves to reinforce the spirit of what the great poet William Carlos Williams once wrote: It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die every day for lack of what is found there. When it comes to the art of the short story, in general, and Saunders, in particular, and “The Red Bow” especially, I wonder if the true value of our best short fiction is not that it explains what we need to know so much as why we need to know what we don’t yet know.)
I have acquired, but not yet begun, his latest collection, Tenth of December, but it’s getting praise in all the right places. Google “George Saunders” and see for yourself.
He appeared on “The Colbert Report” last night (see the video, below). An actual literary writer getting some prime time love!
That alone is reason for celebration, but check out the clip: you’ll perceive what a cool, sensitive (and funny) dude he is. This approbation could not come at a better time (for him, for us) and it could not happen to a more deserving person.
That’s all I have to say. Other than this: do yourself a serious favor and get familiar with a writer who is quickly approaching “national treasure” status.