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George Saunders

2013 March 25


I haven’t been shy about my admiration for George Saunders (see here, here, and here). And I’m clearly not alone in my bordering-on-infatuation writer crush. What can I say? The man is funny, warm, smart, and a brilliant writer. It’s easy to fall, and to fall quickly (as happened in my case). The fact remains that I’ve still only read one full collection (his first) of his and a smattering of his other stories and interviews, but I’m saving the others for future consumption, pacing myself. All of that taken into consideration, what happens when you go to see one of your most admired authors read? What if he’s a disappointment? Boring? Kind of a jerk? Rambling? Is it worth the risk to spoil that perfect image you’ve created?

I’ve had all those experiences when seeing an admired author read, but I’ve also been very impressed. In George’s case, let’s just say my crush is stronger than ever.

He happened to be giving a reading at the Brattle Theater in Harvard Square the Sunday after AWP ended. Thankfully, my good friend and devoted reader Raquel knew my fondness for George and snagged the last two tickets for us. Hurrah! Not only did I get to hear him read, but I asked him a question, shook his hand, and told him his writing inspired me to get back into doing my own writing. He signed my copy of Tenth of December (which I’m really looking forward to reading) and was just a very gracious and kind human being in general. Also, he did SPECTACULAR voices for his characters while reading (from “Victory Lap,” the opening story in Tenth of December) and if you don’t believe that hearing stories read aloud by their writer is a valuable experience that moves you closer to the writing, well then you’re wrong.

So, here’s my advice to you:

  • Read George Saunders
  • Go see him read if you have the chance
  • Go see your favorite author read anytime you can
  • Actually, go see authors you’re not familiar with read, too. You could gain a new writer crush!
And in case you’re wondering, the question I asked him was, “You describe having come from a very working class family and background. How did you discover literature and your love of reading?” To which he responded with a wonderful story about how a nun at his primary school gave him a copy of Johnny Tremaine when he was in the third grade and told him she believed he could read it. And how proud he was that she believed in him, and how proud he was to carry the book around, reading it. Heart = melted.

What have been your favorite reading experiences?

 *image via Salon

3 Responses Post a comment
  1. March 25, 2013

    Oh my lord, the nun and Johnny Tremaine story. I liked Saunders before, but that made a believer out of me.

  2. March 26, 2013

    I’m also a huge fan of George Saunders’ work. He’s definitely one of the best readers I’ve seen.

    If you’re interested, I’ve posted a writing exercise based on his story “Tenth of December” on my website–plus a brief interview. You can find both here:


    Michael Noll

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