Tuesday, June 24, 2014

George Saunders

George Saunders's fourth collection of stories is Tenth of December.

From his Q & A--excerpted in The New Yorker--with Mike Sacks, in Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today's Top Comedy Writers:

Do any specific anecdotes [illustrating your memory of how you "got the idea that the high-serious and the funny were not separate" when you were growing up] come to mind?

My whole childhood we lived next door to this family I’ll call the Smiths. We didn’t know them very well at all. At one point, Mrs. Smith’s mother, who was in her nineties, passed away. My dad went to the wake, where this exchange occurred:

Dad: “So sorry for your loss.”

Mrs. Smith: “Yes, it’s very hard.”

Dad: “Well, on the bright side, I suppose you must be grateful that she had such a long and healthy life.”

Mrs. Smith (mournful, dead-serious): “Yeah. This is the sickest she’s ever been.”

My dad came home just energized from this. I loved his reaction. My family was such a big influence on me. There was a real respect for language. It was understood as a source of power. Everyone was funny in a different flavor. You could make anything right—diffuse any tension, explain any mistake—with a joke. A joke or a funny voice was a way of saying: All is well. We’ll live. We still ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue