How an editor and writer work together:
"Ward: A lot of people say to me, 'God, it must be so fun to work with George Saunders. Do you even have to edit him at all?' And they say it like they assume you shun all editing, or don’t allow editing, which is always really funny to me, because you are a person who craves feedback, who wants to be pushed and challenged and sent off in new directions. This all sounds self-serving, I realize, so I should add: Of course, at this stage, you don’t need an editor. But you want an editor. Why?
"Saunders: No, I definitely need and enjoy having an editor, and for the exact reasons you state. There’s a really nice moment in the life of a piece of writing where the writer starts to get a feeling of it outgrowing him—or he starts to see it having a life of its own that doesn’t have anything to do with his ego or his desire to 'be a good writer.' It’s almost like an animal starts to appear in the stone and then it starts to move, and you, the writer, are rooting for it so hard—but may not be able to see everything clearly after working on that stone for so long."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 9, 2013
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2939 words)
On the "writer's writer," George Saunders:
"We talked for a while about his relationship to Wallace. For all the ways in which their fiction might seem to be working similar themes, they were, Saunders said, 'like two teams of miners, digging at the same spot but from different directions.' He described making trips to New York in the early days and having 'three or four really intense afternoons and evenings' with, on separate occasions, Wallace and Franzen and Ben Marcus, talking to each of them about what 'the ultimate aspiration for fiction was.' Saunders added: 'The thing on the table was emotional fiction. How do we make it? How do we get there? Is there something yet to be discovered? These were about the possibly contrasting desire to: (1) write stories that had some sort of moral heft and/or were not just technical exercises or cerebral games; while (2) not being cheesy or sentimental or reactionary.'"
PUBLISHED: Jan. 3, 2013
LENGTH: 24 minutes (6158 words)
[Fiction] A father uses his lottery winnings for an extravagant birthday party for his teenage daughter:
"September 3rd: Having just turned forty, have resolved to embark on grand project of writing every day in this new black book just got at OfficeMax. Exciting to think how in one year, at rate of one page/day, will have written three hundred and sixty-five pages, and what a picture of life and times then available for kids & grandkids, even greatgrandkids, whoever, all are welcome (!) to see how life really was/is now. Because what do we know of other times really? How clothes smelled and carriages sounded? Will future people know, for example, about sound of airplanes going over at night, since airplanes by that time passé? Will future people know sometimes cats fought in night? Because by that time some chemical invented to make cats not fight? Last night dreamed of two demons having sex and found it was only two cats fighting outside window. Will future people be aware of concept of 'demons'? Will they find our belief in 'demons' quaint? Will 'windows' even exist? Interesting to future generations that even sophisticated college grad like me sometimes woke in cold sweat, thinking of demons, believing one possibly under bed? Anyway, what the heck, am not planning on writing encyclopedia, if any future person is reading this, if you want to know what a 'demon' was, go look it up, in something called an encyclopedia, if you even still have those!
"Am getting off track, due to tired, due to those fighting cats."
PUBLISHED: Oct. 8, 2012
LENGTH: 35 minutes (8979 words)
[Fiction] The pale boy with unfortunate Prince Valiant bangs and cublike mannerisms hulked to the mudroom closet and requisitioned Dad’s white coat. Then requisitioned the boots he’d spray-painted white. Painting the pellet gun white had been a no. That was a gift from Aunt Chloe. Every time she came over he had to haul it out so she could make a big stink about the woodgrain.
PUBLISHED: Oct. 31, 2011
LENGTH: 35 minutes (8872 words)
"You may remember some of my other biggies, such as, 'Any monkey in a story had better be a dead monkey,' and 'Aunts and uncles are best construed as the heliological equivalent of small-scale weather systems,' or (the mother of all advice-quote-pairs): 'The number of rooms in a fictional house should be inversely proportional to the years during which the couple living in that house enjoyed true happiness.'"
PUBLISHED: April 27, 2011
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4096 words)
(Fiction) "He added some Verbaluce™ to the drip, and soon I was feeling the same things but saying them better. The garden still looked nice. It was like the bushes were so tight-seeming and the sun made everything stand out? It was like any moment you expected some Victorians to wander in with their cups of tea. It was as if the garden had become a sort of embodiment of the domestic dreams forever intrinsic to human consciousness."
PUBLISHED: Dec. 20, 2010
LENGTH: 29 minutes (7390 words)
An in situ study was conducted of a tent city near downtown Fresno, California. The objective of the Study was to explore this unusual community of homeless people and learn something of its inhabitants. The Fresno location was chosen based on its size (the Study Area extends over several city blocks) and substantial population (approximately 300 individuals). The project methodology was simple: The Principal Researcher (PR) would set up a tent within the tent city and observe the inhabitants.
PUBLISHED: Oct. 15, 2009
LENGTH: 49 minutes (12352 words)
Then it was the Christmas party. The way we knew it was festive was the garage had been cleared of dog shit. It had also been cleared of the dog, a constantly barking mutt who even bit Warner. He bit Warner, he bit the shovel head Warner thrust at him, sometimes we came in and found him resolutely gnawing the leg of the worktable with a fine sustained rage. Tonight, festively, the dog was locked in the cab of a truck. Now and then, he would hurl himself against the windshield, and somebody, festively, would fling at the windshield a plastic fork or a hamburger bun. The other components of the festivity were a plate of cold cuts on the table where normally the gutters were pre-bent, a garbage can full of iced beer, and a cardboard box holding some dice.
PUBLISHED: Dec. 22, 2003
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3028 words)
[Fiction] From the short story collection Pastoralia
. A family in the near future copes with poverty, loss, and magical-realism-caliber consequences:
"Aunt Bernie's a peacemaker. She doesn't like trouble. Once this guy backed over her foot at FoodKing and she walked home with ten broken bones. She never got married, because Grandpa needed her to keep house after Grandma died. Then he died and left all his money to a woman none of us had ever heard of, and Aunt Bernie started in at DrugTown. But she's not bitter. Sometimes she's so nonbitter it gets on my nerves. When I say Sea Oak's a pit she says she's just glad to have a roof over her head. When I say I'm tired of being broke she says Grandpa once gave her pencils for Christmas and she was so thrilled she sat around sketching horses all day on the backs of used envelopes. Once I asked was she sorry she never had kids and she said no, not at all, and besides, weren't we were her kids?
"And I said yes we were.
"But of course we're not."
PUBLISHED: Oct. 1, 2000
LENGTH: 35 minutes (8956 words)