Books: George Saunders

🕔Mar 09, 2018

I first stumbled across American author George Saunders through one of his shortest short stories, a piece called A Lack of Order in the Floating Room. Odd and compelling and every word carefully chosen, the story propelled me to seek out more.

Last year, there was much fanfare accompanying the release of Saunders’ debut novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize. I haven’t read it—yet. I want to explore his older works first, all of which are short story collections, each of which is critically acclaimed. Anyone able to earn recognition for writing short stories is worth reading, in my mind.

I started with Tenth of December (2013). From the first page, I was captivated. Saunders’ writing is confident and full of oddities. Maybe it’s a bit cliché to say, but I’d describe his writing as fearless. He plays with conventions and isn’t afraid to let his characters drive even the way the text unfolds. Italics, numbers, parentheses, shorthand: something new on every page. But the real strength of Saunders’ work is his ability to suck you into his strange snapshot worlds so completely that it’s impossible not to witness the humanity at the heart of his writing. Love, tenderness, confusion, our very personal reactions to the insanity of the modern world—all this is there for the taking. 

I’m on Pastoralia (2000) now and it’s just as bizarre and funny and engrossing. I may track down a copy of In Persuasion Nation (2006) next or tackle the hefty, award-winning novel. Whichever it is, I’m confident I will enjoy every word.

— Matt J. Simmons