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George Saunders interview

George Saunders interview

In this Man Booker Prize 2017 longlisted author interview George Saunders describes how he feels in remarkable company on this particular Man Booker dozen and what moved and interested him about Abraham Lincoln.  

What has it been like to be longlisted?

It has really been something, to be in such remarkable company. This group of books, coming at this moment in our history, is so cheering to me. It is important to be reminded, in this time of quick snark, purposeful evasion, and aggressive demagoguery, that there is another and higher mode of human expression that thrives on patience, revision, ambiguity, complexity, precision of language, and empathy. 

What are you working on next?

Well, good question. Seems you have a direct line into my guilty Catholic mind. I am looking at a longish stretch of writing time ahead, and my plan is just to start writing stories again. That has always been my primary practice, so to speak. 

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading Jennifer Egan’s wondrous new novel, Manhattan Beach, in galleys, and being reminded on every page of how riveting and transformative a beautiful work of fiction can be.

What is your favourite Man Booker-winning novel?

There are so many wonderful books on that list but I recently had the pleasure of meeting Anne Enright in Australia, and was very happy to see in her, personally, the same entrancing qualities present in her 2007 winner, The Gathering – honesty, lyricism, and deep soulfulness. I’m also inspired by the daring and the totally original tonality of Paul Beatty’s The Sellout.

Do you think we feel the grief of great men and women to be of a different nature to our own?

I think, actually, that we are interested in it because we realize it is identical to our own – the great leveller, we might say. What moved and interested me about Lincoln and his son was how little time Lincoln had to adjust to his grief.  In fact, it seems, from the historical record, that he never really got over it – he was talking about the loss of Willie on the last day of his life, with his wife. And yet he had to go on, and so he did – growing as a human being with every passing month and (it seemed to me) incorporating the reality of his loss into his expanding philosophical, political, and spiritual views.

Lincoln in the Bardo