Few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later—no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget—we will return.
Literary Birthday - 2 December
Happy Birthday, George Saunders, born 2 December 1958
- Fiction is a kind of compassion-generating machine that saves us from sloth. Is life kind or cruel? Yes, Literature answers. Are people good or bad? You bet, says Literature. But unlike other systems of knowing, Literature declines to eradicate one truth in favour of another.
- The word ‘funny’ is a bit like the word ‘love’ - we don’t have enough words to describe the many varieties.
- In a culture that is becoming ever more story-stupid, in which a representative of the Coca-Cola company can, with a straight face, pronounce, as he donates a collection of archival Coca-Cola commercials to the Library of Congress, that ‘Coca-Cola has become an integral part of people’s lives by helping to tell these stories,’ it is perhaps not surprising that people have trouble teaching and receiving a novel as complex and flawed as Huck Finn, but it is even more urgent that we learn to look passionately and technically at stories, if only to protect ourselves from the false and manipulative ones being circulated among us.
- I’m always aware of writing around things I can’t do, and I’ve come to think that that’s actually what ‘style’ is - an avoidance of your deficiencies.
- If you haven’t read you don’t have the voice. The lack of voice eliminates experience.
- Reading is a form of prayer, a guided meditation that briefly makes us believe we’re someone else, disrupting the delusion that we’re permanent and at the centre of the universe. Suddenly (we’re saved!) other people are real again, and we’re fond of them.
- When you read a short story, you come out a little more aware and a little more in love with the world around you. What I want is to have the reader come out just 6 percent more awake to the world.
- Irony is just honesty with the volume cranked up.
- I don’t think much new ever happens. Most of us spend our days the same way people spent their days in the year 1000: walking around smiling, trying to earn enough to eat, while neurotically doing these little self-proofs in our head about how much better we are than these other slobs, while simultaneously, in another part of our brain, secretly feeling woefully inadequate to these smarter, more beautiful people.
- We try, we fail, we posture, we aspire, we pontificate - and then we age, shrink, die, and vanish.
Saunders is a New York Times best-selling American writer of short stories, essays, novellas and children’s books.
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