A few weeks back, the author George Saunders, who is blond, with the shaggy beard of someone who has better things to think about than his appearance, was sitting in a Murray Hill hotel with The Observer, playing Jishaku, a Japanese strategy game involving magnets. Several rounds in, he abruptly announced that he would have to stop playing. He was “too competitive,” he said, and couldn’t “concentrate on winning and talking” at the same time.
Putting down his magnets, he launched into an explanation of his parodic use of idiomatic language in his fiction.
The concept had gestated during his years as a geophysical engineer and technical writer for Radian International, an environmental engineering company. There was a lot of on-the-job jargon.
“I got the idea that technical language isn’t necessarily nonpoetic language,” said Mr. Saunders, 54, whose sixth book, the story collection Tenth of December, came out last week from Random House. Eventually, he left Radian to pursue an M.A. in creative writing at Syracuse University. “I’d understand it,” he said of his Radian-speak (though he could have also been telling of his fiction), “but to the outside world it would sound like this nonsense language.”
The Transom caught a 5 o’clock Metro-North train up to Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville on a recent Monday night and directed the cab driver to 45 Wrexham, a new building that houses specialty programs for graduate students. Not in the habit of auditing English classes, we remained silent as the seats filled with gradate students, all chattering before their workshop with enigmatic writer Tao Lin. The course? “The Contemporary Short Story.”
If you were wondering what kind of people fork over money for a class taught by the guy who live-blogged Hurricane Sandy for Thought Catalog while on Ecstasy, well, they’re pretty much what you’d expect.
Storied East Village literary haunt KGB Bar is shopping a new paperback fiction anthology to publishers this week, called The Greatest Stories Ever Read, according to literary agent Peter Steinberg, who is representing the book to publishers. The anthology, billed as "a greatest hits collection" of writing that has been read at KGB over the Read More
The typical protagonist of a George Saunders story is a sad sack with a humiliating job (often involving a costume), a hot-to-trot wife, a sick child and the threat of a pink slip looming. Cutbacks at work lead to further humiliations. Finally, the wife, the boss or the co-workers insist that the protagonist prove his Read More