Friday, December 19, 2008

George Saunders

From an interview with George Saunders by Adam Smith in St. John's University Humanities Review:

Smith: You’ve been labeled as both satirist and social critic and in your novella The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil has been compared to Orwell’s Animal Farm. How do you feel about the process of being labeled by critics, readers and such?

Saunders: I like it, since it means that critics and readers are reading the stories. I think the trick is to keep reinventing yourself so that whatever labels are used are already out of date. I suppose being labeled could be limiting (if you started changing what you were doing in order to stay within your label) but I think as long as we don’t take ourselves too seriously, not much worry of that.

Smith: In that novella, there is a scene where Phil, brainless at that point, makes his first Outer Horner nationalistic speech to which fellow Outer Hornerite Melvin says, “He just comes right out and says it.” Do you feel that this is your job as a writer, to just come out and say it?

Saunders: Yes, even if you’re not sure it’s true. Dylan said something along these lines, like some things he writes, he knows are true, some he knows are false, and some he doesn’t know whether they’re true or false. I like this idea that one consciousness holds all kinds of things (attitudes, beliefs, fears, etc.) and none of them completely define who we are. It’s the pattern of variance that makes an individual. So writing is one way to sound one’s own pattern of variance, if you will.

Smith: You’ve talked about politics as inevitably creeping into any writer’s work in a politically charged time. Do you ever find yourself holding back from something that may be taken as a blatant outing of your political views? Do your publisher or editors make any comments on the politics of your work?

Saunders: I think just simple aesthetics would argue...[read on].
Read the complete interview.

--Marshal Zeringue