George Saunders – Highlight Reel

I make no distinction between what pleases me and what might please a reader. That is, if I feel the reader will be pleased by a thing, I simply want to do that thing. Period. I don’t care much about anything but being entertaining – with entertainment, I hope, being defined as “ultimately interesting.” Everything matters. Suffering is real. Death is imminent. On the other hand, if he wants to go deeply into himself, subjugate his own pettiness, discover some big truths about life – there’s no way he can lose.

Realism is nonsense, when you think of it. As soon as I start writing, things start to unfold around some central moral vector, and that’s that. If you’re going to have some really crazy things happening, you have a better chance of being believed if you jump off from some believable ground.

We are walking corpses. Murderers walk. The dead don’t really die.

We’re not slaves any more to ideas of “the real” or, for that matter, to ideas of “the experiment” – we’re just trying to make something happen to the reader in his or her deepest places. There’s something about the normal approach that makes me scared and sick. Just put everything together that feels like it came out of the same aesthetic suite of ideas.

That’s the theory, anyway.

All good fiction is moral, in that it is imbued with the world, and powered by our real concerns. It is instructive, it feels that way, but instructive in a deep way, and in a way that does not flow from a writer’s desire to instruct. Rather, it flows from the writer’s confusion. Our approach is preventing us from reaching into the more profound aspects of our experience, especially as we get older and less jaded and the checks start rolling in and the grandkids have grandkids and we see that life is not so angry after all, at least not all the time. Life came brutally knocking at our door, and now we are reconsidering the venture.

Of course you are the most important thing, of course you exist separate from the rest of the world. The Cross Old Man has at last admitted that writing can be taught. You don’t do what we usually do, which is convince with language. So it changes the nature of the challenge.

How much of the brooding cynical nature of our art-fiction is meaningful and how much of it is just limited technical ability and/or sloth? I think there are deep truths about our time that are dark and scary. That, to me, is art’s highest aspiration: to show that nothing is true and everything is true. To work as a kind of ritual humility and ritual celebration, of all that is. So I say, anything that gets us going. There is no Real Life – there is no objective reality. There is just your version of it, and it has to be in your language.

Hence the constant necessity for new voices.

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Observation/Reflection: George Saunders is unique – very creative. A simple reading of his work left me perplexed, but intrigued. “My Flamboyant Grandson” is just strange enough to keep me interested and wondering – it poses just the right amount of questions into its validity. It is, as Saunders himself later tells Ben Marcus, a fantastic story delivered in a believable way. There is no fantastic opera – the story is cast demurely, and so, is swallowed with a tad more ease. His storytelling isn’t cliché, and he isn’t afraid to plunge into dark and scary worlds, portraying them with enough whimsy to bring them out into the light. The world Teddy lives in is severely oppressed – depressing even – and yet, Saunders is so ingenious at displaying the glory of Teddy’s survival and his grandfather’s efforts that the oppression isn’t as dreary and all-encompassing as it otherwise would have been. He writes without unnecessary flaunts of his style, and so, his writing is just naturally ‘likeable.’ I am no exception to this rule, and loved his work immensely.

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