ONE OF THE MOST ORIGINAL WRITERS OF SHORT FICTION
OF HIS GENERATION, TO SPEAK
NYS Writers Institute, February 20, 2013
4:15 p.m. Seminar | Standish Room, Science Library, Uptown Campus
8:00 p.m. Reading | Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center, Uptown Campus
George Saunders, major contemporary short story writer, winner of a 2006 MacArthur Foundation fellowship, and a four-time winner of the National Magazine Award for fiction, will read from his work Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 8 p.m. in the Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center, on the University at Albany’s uptown campus. Earlier that same day at 4:15 p.m., the author will present an informal seminar in the Standish Room, Science Library, on the uptown campus. The events are free and open to the public, and are sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute.
"Street humor, fast speech, wise cracks, pop culture, all this stuff. . .the America that I had known, I had blocked that out as somehow being low. . .(3:51)
George Saunders, winner of a 2006 MacArthur Foundation fellowship, and a four-time winner of the National Magazine Award for fiction, is widely regarded as one of the most original writers of short fiction of his generation. Writer Zadie Smith says, “Not since Twain has America produced a satirist this funny.” Writer Dave Eggers says, “There is no author I recommend to people more often— for ten years I’ve urged George Saunders onto everyone and everyone.” Thomas Pynchon praised Saunders’ “…astoundingly tuned voice—graceful, dark, authentic, and funny…” and Vince Passaro of The Nation called him “the funniest writer in America.”
His newest collection, Tenth of December: Stories (2013), presents an assortment of characters faced with painful moral quandaries and existential dilemmas. The protagonists include, among others, a shy boy who witnesses an attempted abduction; a combat veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder; a terminal cancer patient who prepares to commit suicide; and a man deranged by a series of pharmaceutical experiments.
Referring to the new collection, Joel Lovell, deputy editor of the New York Times magazine, published an eight-page January 2012 profile entitled, “George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You’ll Read This Year.” Among other things, Lovell’s article features a collection of notable quotes from other writers about Saunders: “‘There is really no one like him,’ Lorrie Moore wrote. ‘He is an original — but everyone knows that.’ Tobias Wolff, who taught Saunders when he was in the graduate writing program at Syracuse in the mid-1980s, said, ‘He’s been one of the luminous spots of our literature for the past 20 years,’ and then added what may be the most elegant compliment I’ve ever heard paid to another person: ‘He’s such a generous spirit, you’d be embarrassed to behave in a small way around him.’”
Saunders’ earlier collections include CivilWarLand in Bad Decline (1996), a finalist for the 1996 PEN/Hemingway Award; Pastoralia (2000), a New York Times Notable Book and one of Entertainment Weekly’s Ten Best Fiction Books of the year; and In Persuasion Nation (2006), a finalist for the Story Prize. Actor/director Ben Stiller purchased the film rights to CivilWarLand. Saunders received the 2006 World Fantasy Award for“CommComm,” one of the stories from In Persuasion Nation. His writing appears frequently in the New Yorker,McSweeney’s, Esquire,GQ, and Harper’s, among other publications. From 2006-2008, he also contributed a weekly column, “American Psyche,” to the The Guardian’s Saturday edition.
The Braindead Megaphone (2007), his collection of essays on travel, literature and politics, earned Saunders guest appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman and The Colbert Report. His children’s book, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip (2006), appeared on the New York Times children’s bestseller list. Entertainment Weekly said of the latter book, “Saunders’s poignant, profound style lifts [the tale] from the zone of the merely weird into some kind of wonderful.”
A geophysical engineer by training, Saunders formerly worked for an environmental engineering firm in Rochester and explored for oil with a drilling crew in Sumatra. He received an M.A. in creative writing in 1988 from Syracuse University, where he has served as a member of the English faculty since 1997.