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.” Read More