AUTHOR’S BIO

Author Background

• Birth—December 2, 1958
• Where—Amarillo, Texas, USA
• Raised—suburbs of Chicago, Illinois
• Education—B.S., Colorado School of Mines; M.A., Syracuse University
• Awards—4 National Magazine Awards; PEN/Malamud Award; World Fantasy Award; Story Prize; Folio Prize, Mann Booker Prize (2017)
• Currently—teaches at Syracuse University

George Saunders is an American writer of short stories, essays, novellas and children’s books. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, McSweeney’s and GQ. He also contributed a weekly column, American Psyche, to the weekend magazine of The Guardian until October 2008.

A professor at Syracuse University, Saunders won the National Magazine Award for fiction in 1994, 1996, 2000, and 2004, and second prize in the O. Henry Awards in 1997. His first story collection, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline (1996), was a finalist for that year’s PEN/Hemingway Award. In 2006 Saunders received a MacArthur Fellowship. In 2006 he won the World Fantasy Award for his short story “CommComm”. His story collection In Persuasion Nation was a finalist for The Story Prize in 2007. In 2013, he won the PEN/Malamud Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award. His Tenth of December: Stories (2013) won the 2013 Story Prize for short-story collections, inaugural (2014) and the Folio Prize.

Early Life

Saunders was born in Amarillo, Texas. He grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago, graduating from Oak Forest High School in Oak Forest, Illinois. In 1981 Saunders received a B.S. in geophysical engineering from Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. In 1988, he obtained an M.A. in creative writing from Syracuse University.

Of his scientific background, Saunders has said,
Any claim I might make to originality in my fiction is really just the result of this odd background: basically, just me working inefficiently, with flawed tools, in a mode I don’t have sufficient background to really understand. Like if you put a welder to designing dresses.

Career

From 1989 to 1996, Saunders worked as a technical writer and geophysical engineer for Radian International, an environmental engineering firm in Rochester, New York. He also worked for a time with an oil exploration crew in Sumatra.

Since 1997, Saunders has been on the faculty of Syracuse University, teaching creative writing in the school’s MFA program while continuing to publish fiction and nonfiction. In 2006, Saunders was awarded a $500,000 MacArthur Fellowship. In the same year he was also awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. He was a Visiting Writer at Wesleyan University and Hope College in 2010. His nonfiction collection, The Braindead Megaphone, was published in 2007. While promoting The Braindead Megaphone, Saunders appeared on The Colbert Report and the Late Show with David Letterman.[citation needed]

Saunders’s fiction often focuses on the absurdity of consumerism, corporate culture and the role of mass media. While many reviewers mention the satirical tone in Saunders’s writing, his work also raises moral and philosophical questions. The tragicomic element in his writing has earned Saunders comparisons to Kurt Vonnegut, whose work inspired Saunders.

Saunders is a student of Nyingma Buddhism.

Works

Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel Feb 14, 2017
CivilWarLand in Bad Decline: Stories and a Novella Apr 26, 2016
The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip Nov 24, 2015
Tenth of December: Stories Jan 7, 2014
Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness Apr 22, 2014
Fox 8: A Story Apr 9, 2013
The Braindead Megaphone Sep 4, 2007
In Persuasion Nation Mar 6, 2007
The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil Sep 6, 2005
Pastoralia Jun 1, 2001

KIRKUS REVIEW

Short-story virtuoso Saunders’ (Tenth of December, 2013, etc.) first novel is an exhilarating change of pace.

The bardo is a key concept of Tibetan Buddhism: a middle, or liminal, spiritual landscape where we are sent between physical lives. It’s also a fitting master metaphor for Saunders’ first novel, which is about suspension: historical, personal, familial, and otherwise. The Lincoln of the title is our 16th president, sort of, although he is not yet dead. Rather, he is in a despair so deep it cannot be called mere mourning over his 11-year-old son, Willie, who died of typhoid in 1862. Saunders deftly interweaves historical accounts with his own fragmentary, multivoiced narration as young Willie is visited in the netherworld by his father, who somehow manages to bridge the gap between the living and the dead, at least temporarily. But the sneaky brilliance of the book is in the way Saunders uses these encounters—not so much to excavate an individual’s sense of loss as to connect it to a more national state of disarray. 1862, after all, was the height of the Civil War, when the outcome was far from assured. Lincoln was widely seen as being out of his depth, “a person of very inferior cast of character, wholly unequal to the crisis.” Among Saunders’ most essential insights is that, in his grief over Willie, Lincoln began to develop a hard-edged empathy, out of which he decided that “the swiftest halt to the [war] (therefore the greatest mercy) might be the bloodiest.” This is a hard truth, insisting that brutality now might save lives later, and it gives this novel a bitter moral edge. For those familiar with Saunders’ astonishing short fiction, such complexity is hardly unexpected, although this book is a departure for him stylistically and formally; longer, yes, but also more of a collage, a convocation of voices that overlap and argue, enlarging the scope of the narrative. It is also ruthless and relentless in its evocation not only of Lincoln and his quandary, but also of the tenuous existential state shared by all of us. Lincoln, after all, has become a shade now, like all the ghosts who populate this book. “Strange, isn’t it?” one character reflects. “To have dedicated one’s life to a certain venture, neglecting other aspects of one’s life, only to have that venture, in the end, amount to nothing at all, the products of one’s labors utterly forgotten?”

With this book, Saunders asserts a complex and disturbing vision in which society and cosmos blur.

THE AUDIOBOOK

The audio book is comprehensively read by a full cast including Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, George Saunders, Carrie Brownstein, Miranda July, Lena Dunham, it is 7 hrs and 25 mins long.

Watch the PBS News Hour interview, writing Lincoln in the Bardo YouTube.



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