Drinks with George Saunders

After enjoying hearing him and Jonathan Dee give readings of their latest work and take questions from the Free Library audience, I was honored to spend a couple hours with a few friends drinking with acclaimed fiction writer George Saunders in the Lowes hotel bar in Center City Philadelphia.

The author, whom I first read in 2006, was more than generous with his time and said a number of things I found really interesting.

  • Influence, of which I asked about during the audience session: Contemporary writers do challenge Saunders into trying to stretch his own writing, in addition the work of the greats of the past.
  • He approaches his nonfiction work entirely differently than his fiction work — the first is a linear act that he completes in days or weeks and does for money, while he’ll spend years on his creative outlet.
  • His career arc reminds me much of comedian Louis CK, both of whom talk about the value of having their more widespread success later in their careers so that their egos and perspective can be kept in check.
  • Being outside of the traditional literary circles, as a professor at Syracuse, has kept him balanced and with a different view on the world.
  • He isn’t concerned about the delivery mechanism and changing publishing norms that affect how readers find his work. At 54, his success will keep him paid, but I thought it was interesting he didn’t seem concerned by it.

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