George Saunders

Literary Birthday – 2 December – George Saunders

Happy Birthday, George Saunders, born 2 December 1958.


  1. Fiction is a kind of compassion-generating machine that saves us from sloth. Is life kind or cruel? Yes, Literature answers. Are people good or bad? You bet, says Literature. But unlike other systems of knowing, Literature declines to eradicate one truth in favour of another.
  2. I actually believe that a lot of what people call originality has to do with persistence in the craft.
  3. The generalising writer is like the passionate drunk, stumbling into your house mumbling: I know I’m not being clear, exactly, but don’t you kind of feel what I’m feeling?
  4. The word ‘funny’ is a bit like the word ‘love’ – we don’t have enough words to describe the many varieties.
  5. In a culture that is becoming ever more story-stupid, in which a representative of the Coca-Cola company can, with a straight face, pronounce, as he donates a collection of archival Coca-Cola commercials to the Library of Congress, that ‘Coca-Cola has become an integral part of people’s lives by helping to tell these stories,’ it is perhaps not surprising that people have trouble teaching and receiving a novel as complex and flawed as Huck Finn, but it is even more urgent that we learn to look passionately and technically at stories, if only to protect ourselves from the false and manipulative ones being circulated among us.
  6. Character is that sum total of moments we can’t explain.
  7. I’m always aware of writing around things I can’t do, and I’ve come to think that that’s actually what ‘style’ is – an avoidance of your deficiencies.
  8. If you haven’t read you don’t have the voice. The lack of voice eliminates experience.
  9. When something really bad is going on in a culture, the average guy doesn’t see it. He can’t. He’s average. And is surrounded by and immersed in the cant and discourse of the status quo. (via)
  10. Reading is a form of prayer, a guided meditation that briefly makes us believe we’re someone else, disrupting the delusion that we’re permanent and at the centre of the universe. Suddenly (we’re saved!) other people are real again, and we’re fond of them.
  11. When you read a short story, you come out a little more aware and a little more in love with the world around you. What I want is to have the reader come out just 6 percent more awake to the world.
  12. Irony is just honesty with the volume cranked up.
  13. By honing the sentences you used to describe the world, you changed the inflection of your mind, which changed your perceptions.
  14. We try, we fail, we posture, we aspire, we pontificate – and then we age, shrink, die, and vanish.
  15. Sometimes I think fiction exists to model the way God might think of us, if God had the time and inclination to do so.

George Saunders is a New York Times best-selling American writer of short stories, essays, novellas and children’s books. He won the Man Booker prize in 2017 for Lincoln in the Bardo.

Source for Image

David Shankbone, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 2nd December 2013