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Author Archive: "George Saunders"

George Saunders: What I’m Giving

In this special series, we asked writers we admire to share a book they're giving to their friends and family this holiday season. Check back daily to see the books your favorite authors are gifting.

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"The Death of Ivan Ilyich" was inspired by a story Tolstoy heard about a neighbor who'd spent the last three days of his life screaming at the top of his lungs. The question the reader finds himself asking is: Jeez, what can I do to avoid that? At first the novella feels like a sort of everyman tale, but it soon becomes clear that Tolstoy's Ivan Ilych has a very particular malady — he is disconnected from everything, in thrall to the habitual, in denial of anything even vaguely "negative," and is out of intimate connection with everything real, including his wife and family. Slowly he is overtaken by a fear that he may not have lived in the right way. The book has one of the funniest and most terrifying funeral scenes ever written, and Ivan's slow realization that, yes, he is going to die (him, Ivan Ilych, who can still ...


Next, Winston Churchill

So this is my last day of blogging for Powell's and I'd like to thank them for the opportunity.

Just did my reading at Elliott Bay, another terrific bookstore — between Elliott Bay and Powell's, I'm reminded all over again of the importance of the brilliant independent bookstore in American literary life: where smart people lead other smart people to books they will love. Thanks to all of the employees in both stores who worked hard to make these events happen.

The last two nights I've read from the piece I did for GQ called "The Great Divider," which is about a drive I took along the Mexican border this time last year. I also read "Nostalgia," a highly somber look at my own mortality, also from the new book.

Yesterday, as you'll recall, I saw Justin Timberlake. Today I'm staying at the Fairmount in Seattle. This is also, as it happens, where the Tampa Bay Bucs are staying, in advance of tomorrow's game. They all came through the lobby as I was checking in, wearing their jerseys for some reason. So ...


Julius Burgerlake

So am writing this just before shooting to the airport to go on to Seattle, and I want to thank everyone who came to Powell's last night — what a generous crowd you were. It's always nice to see people face to face, and, of course, Powell's is one of the greatest bookstores in the world.

Am finding it harder to write anything very long here as the pace picks up, but do want to say how much it means to me that people read the books and come out to the readings. It always kind of amazes me that people are there, and are so kind.

Yesterday, on my five-hour flight from NY, I was seated next to an Armrest Dominator. It was a long flight. It went on so long I started to think we'd overshot Portland and were circling all the way around the globe to take a second shot at it. So am hoping that on today's flight I will seated either on the aisle or next to someone very very small, or someone who has a version of OCD that makes them always ...


15-Hours Weary

I hope you will forgive me for a brief and low-humor post, as I am about as tired as I've ever been. Today was a full day of different media-type things in NYC, including four interviews and an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. So it's 1 am and I have talked about myself for like 15 straight hours, and lo, I am weary. And I'll be getting up in 5 hours to fly out to the Mother of All Beautiful Cities, Portland, and a reading at 7:30 at Powell's tomorrow night [Friday, Sept. 7]. Hope to see you all there.

In lieu of anything new, please allow me to direct you to a few pieces I've recently done for the Guardian in the UK — I have a humor column there called "American Psyche."

Goodnight, thanks, and see you tomorrow.


Kids Say the Wackest Crap

So today was the first real day of my tour, and included: the drive from Syracuse to NY, with a swing by Binghamton to pick up a different rental car when the rental car we were driving developed an issue; an interview with Austin Considine, a wonderful young writer who has recently spent six months in Dubai working on a book about sex slavery in that country; the recording of a podcast for GQ at their offices in Times Square; and a heartbreakingly beautiful dinner/book party thrown by Jim Nelson and Andy Ward at GQ. Today is going to be a challenge. I have something like three interviews, a book signing, an appearance on David Letterman, and a reading. I have extremely limited TV experience, my throat is already scratchy from talking too much, I have an annoying asthmatic wheeze, and I have already exhausted my wit. But on the bright side, as we were racing past a school today, look what blew out the window and into my hand! A sort of missive from the Youth:

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Coarse Evaluation

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A Strange Letter Regarding Uranus

So today absolutely nothing of artistic value occurred. I got a haircut, bought some new clothes for my "tour," did some puppy maintenance, went to Target and bought a bunch of crap for my "tour," including a couch and a blender for my "tour" bus. Then I remembered I didn't have a bus, just a rented Chevy Impala I am driving down to NY with my wife and daughter, because the brakes went out on our real car. So I returned the crap to Target. Then I thought: what the hell, and also returned all the clothes I bought and had the hair that was earlier cut off surgically restored. So now I am back to Square One. So am feeling remiss. How, I ask myself, is one to blog when nothing happened? And I reply with the timeless answer: Reproduce that odd, yet intriguing letter your friend "Jeff" got earlier this year.

Remember earlier this year, when scientists announced a change in the status of Pluto? Well, a friend of mine ("Jeff") works for Disney, and imagine his surprise when the following letter ...


To Warm Up for My Big Book Tour, I Sometimes Like to Do Some National Security Work

I'm very grateful for the chance to blog for Powell's for the next five days. I'm about to start a book tour for my new book, The Braindead Megaphone, and I guess the idea is that I'll blog from the road. Tonight, however, I'm home in Syracuse, and not much is going on. Instead, I'd like to tell you about a little trip I took last week.

Like many Americans, I've been troubled by rumors of mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

So last week I paid Gitmo a visit.

Although it's difficult for the "average citizen" to gain access, I had an advantage: the great respect (bordering on awe) the American government has for us "literary types." As you may know, all a writer has to do to gain access to a restricted federal facility is show up at the front gate and declare his or her genre. You just declare ...


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