“Come to think of it, it was possible, even probable, that the boat had already gone over the Falls or hit the Snag.”
George Saunders reflects on his writing process, suggesting that the magical, romantic notion where fully formed art leaps from the author’s brain on to the page does the writer, the reader, and the work a disservice. In reality, it takes “hundreds of drafts” and “thousands of incremental adjustments” to form a story into a “hopeful thing.”
George Saunders goes on the road to attend Trump rallies to get a sense of why so many people support the controversial candidate, and an understanding of how America has become so divided.
Why do our writing teachers have such a huge impact on us? George Saunders on early lessons learned.
“What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.”
[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.”
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.”
[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.”
[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.
(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.”