December 2, 1958|
Amarillo, Texas, U.S.
George Saunders (born December 2, 1958) is an American writer of short stories, essays, novellas, children's books, and novels. 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 between 2006 and 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, was a finalist for the 1996 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. Saunders's Tenth of December: Stories won the 2013 Story Prize for short-story collections and the inaugural (2014) Folio Prize. His novel Lincoln in the Bardo (Bloomsbury Publishing) won the 2017 Man Booker Prize.
Early life and education
Saunders was born in Amarillo, Texas. He grew up near Chicago and graduated from Oak Forest High School in Oak Forest, Illinois. In 1981, he received a B.S. in geophysical engineering from Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. 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."
In 1988, he was awarded an M.A. in creative writing from Syracuse University; while there, he met Paula Redick, a fellow writer, who would become his wife. Saunders recalled, "we [got] engaged in three weeks, a Syracuse Creative Writing Program record that, I believe, still stands."
Regarding his influences, Saunders has written:
I really love Russian writers, especially from the 19th and early 20th Century: Gogol, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Babel. I love the way they take on the big topics. I'm also inspired by a certain absurdist comic tradition that would include influences like Mark Twain, Daniil Kharms, Groucho Marx, Monty Python, Steve Martin, Jack Handey, etc. And then, on top of that, I love the strain of minimalist American fiction writing: Sherwood Anderson, Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver, Tobias Wolff.
Background and work
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, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and a $500,000 MacArthur Fellowship. He was a Visiting Writer at Wesleyan University and Hope College in 2010 and participated in Wesleyan's Distinguished Writers Series and Hope College's Visiting Writers Series. His nonfiction collection, The Braindead Megaphone, was published in 2007.
Saunders's fiction often focuses on the absurdity of consumerism, corporate culture, and the role of mass media. While many reviewers mention his writing's satirical tone, his work also raises moral and philosophical questions. The tragicomic element in his writing has earned Saunders comparisons to Kurt Vonnegut, whose work has inspired him.
The film rights to CivilWarLand in Bad Decline were purchased by Ben Stiller in the late 1990s; as of 2007[update], the project was in development by Stiller's company, Red Hour Productions. Saunders has also written a feature-length screenplay based on his story "Sea Oak".
In a November 2015 conversation with American writer Jennifer Egan for the New York Times, Saunders said that he was writing a novel set in the 19th century, which while "ostensibly historical" was also closer to science fiction than much of his previous work.
Saunders has won the National Magazine Award for Fiction four times: in 1994, for "The 400-Pound CEO" (published in Harper's); in 1996, for "Bounty" (also published in Harper's); in 2000, for "The Barber's Unhappiness" (published in The New Yorker); and in 2004, for "The Red Bow" (published in Esquire). Saunders won second prize in the 1997 O. Henry Awards for his short story "The Falls", initially published in the January 22, 1996 issue of The New Yorker.
In 2001, Saunders received a Lannan Literary Fellowship in Fiction from the Lannan Foundation. In 2006, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation. That same year, he received a MacArthur Fellowship.
His short-story collection Tenth of December won the 2013 Story Prize. The collection also won the inaugural Folio Prize in 2014, "the first major English-language book prize open to writers from around the world."
Awards and honors
- National Magazine Award for Fiction, 1994 – "The 400-Pound CEO", short story, published in Harper's Magazine
- National Magazine Award for Fiction, 1996 – "Bounty", short story, published in Harper's Magazine
- National Magazine Award for Fiction, 2000 – "The Barber's Unhappiness", short story, published in The New Yorker
- National Magazine Award for Fiction, 2004 – "The Red Bow", short story, published in Esquire
- 2nd Prize in the 1997 O. Henry Awards – "The Falls", short story, published in The New Yorker (January 22, 1996 issue)
- Lannan Foundation – Lannan Literary Fellowship, 2001
- MacArthur Fellowship, 2006
- Guggenheim Fellowship, 2006
- American Academy of Arts and Letters, Academy Award, 2009
- World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story – "CommComm", published in The New Yorker (August 1, 2005 issue)
- PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story, 2013
- The Story Prize, 2013 – Tenth of December: Stories
- Folio Prize, 2014 – Tenth of December: Stories
- The New York Times Book Review, "10 Best Books of 2013", Tenth of December: Stories
- American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Elected as Member, 2014
- Booker Prize, 2017 – Lincoln in the Bardo
- American Academy of Arts and Letters, Inducted as Member, 2018
- PEN/Hemingway Award, 1996 – Finalist – CivilWarLand in Bad Decline
- The Story Prize, 2006 – Finalist – In Persuasion Nation
- National Book Award for Fiction, 2014 – Finalist – Tenth of December: Stories
- Bram Stoker Award, 2011 – Finalist – "Home" (short story)
- CivilWarLand in Bad Decline (1996) (short stories and a novella)
- Pastoralia (2000) (short stories and a novella)
- In Persuasion Nation (2006) (short stories)
- Tenth of December: Stories (2013) (short stories)
- Selected stories
|I can speak!||1999||The New Yorker||In Persuasion Nation||Often acclaimed as among his best short stories.|
|The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip||2000||Novella|
|Four Institutional Monologues||2000||McSweeney's||4th story included in In Persuasion Nation||originally released as a booklet|
|The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil||2005||Novella|
|Fox 8||2013, 2018||Fox 8 (2018)||First released as an e-book in 2013, the story was later published in hardcover by Random House in November 2018.|
|A Two-Minute Note to the Future (2014)||2014|
|Mother's Day||2016||New Yorker||Uncollected|
Essays and reporting
- Saunders, George (2006). A bee stung me, so I killed all the fish (notes from the Homeland 2003–2006). Riverhead Books. 
- The Braindead Megaphone (2007) (collected essays)
- Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness (2014)
- — (July 11–18, 2016). "Trump days : up close with the candidate and his crowds". American Chronicles. The New Yorker. 92 (21): 50–61. 
- Fakes: An Anthology of Pseudo-Interviews, Faux-Lectures, Quasi-Letters, "Found" Texts, and Other Fraudulent Artifacts, edited by David Shields and Matthew Vollmer (2012)
- In the "Author's Note" to the 2012 paperback reprint of CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, Saunders writes about an early story he published in 1986, titled "A Lack of Order in the Floating Object Room," which he (quote): "used it to get into Syracuse. This story was originally published in Northwest Review, Volume 24, Number 2, in 1986."
- Saunders, George. "My Writing Education: A Time Line". The New Yorker. Retrieved October 26, 2015.
- Lovell, Joel (January 3, 2013). "George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You'll Read This Year". The New York Times. The New York Times Magazine.
- "American psyche | Life and style". The Guardian. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
- World Fantasy Convention (2010). "Award Winners and Nominees". Archived from the original on December 1, 2010. Retrieved February 4, 2011.
- "Saunders Wins PEN/Malamud Award". Pw.org. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
- Larry Dark, "George Saunders Wins His First Book Award, The Story Prize, for Tenth of December", thestoryprize.blogspot.com, March 5, 2014.
- Ron Charles (March 10, 2014). "George Saunders wins $67,000 for first Folio Prize". Washington Post. Retrieved March 11, 2014.
- "Tenth of December by George Saunders wins inaugural Folio Prize 2014" (PDF). Folio Prize. March 10, 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 11, 2014. Retrieved March 11, 2014.
- "Booker winner took 20 years to write". bbc.com. October 18, 2017.
- Childers, Doug (July 1, 2000). "The Wag Chats with George Saunders". The Wag. Retrieved June 4, 2007.
- "George Saunders – Cultivating Thought". June 3, 2016. Archived from the original on June 3, 2016. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
- "Ayn Rand is for children". Salon.com. January 19, 2013. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
- Saunders on KCRW'S The Bookworm discussing The Braindead Megaphone.
- Saunders, George. "God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut". Retrieved June 4, 2007.
- Whitney, Joel. "Dig the Hole: An Interview with George Saunders". Archived from the original on March 12, 2007. Retrieved June 1, 2007.
- Vollmer, Matthew. ""Knowable in the Smallest Fragment": An Interview with George Saunders". Retrieved June 1, 2007.
- "Choose Your Own Adventure: A Conversation With Jennifer Egan and George Saunders". The New York Times. November 15, 2015.
- Bemis, Alec Hanley (May 10, 2006). "Mean Snacks and Monkey Shit". LA Weekly. pp. 12–27. Archived from the original on September 4, 2006. Retrieved June 4, 2007.
- "Winners and Finalists Database – ASME".
- "The Falls".
- "The O. Henry Prize Stories".
- "George Saunders". newyorker.com. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
- Clark, Judi. "George Saunders". Lannan Foundation. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
- "John Simon Guggenheim Foundation". Retrieved October 18, 2017.
- "George Saunders". MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
- Staff (April 14, 2009). "The American Academy Of Arts And Letters Announces 2009 Literature Award Winners" (PDF) (Press release). New York: American Academy of Arts and Letters. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
- "2009 Literature Award Winners". artsandletters.org. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
- "Press Releases". American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
- "Commcomm". The New Yorker. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 15, 2015. Retrieved June 1, 2015.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- "Past Award Winners – PEN/Faulkner". penfaulkner.org. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
- "The 2014 Folio Prize Shortlist is Announced". Folio Prize. February 10, 2014. Retrieved February 13, 2014.
- Wood, Gaby (February 10, 2014). "Folio Prize 2013: The Americans are coming, but not the ones we were expecting". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved February 13, 2014.
- "2013 National Book Award". nationalbook.org.
- "The 10 Best Books of 2013". New York Times. 2013. Retrieved December 7, 2013.
- Lovell, Joel. "George Saunders Just Wrote The Best Book You'll Read This Year". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
- "Bram Stoker Award 2011 Nominees". Locus Magazine. 2012. Retrieved May 2, 2012.
- "2018 Newly Elected Members – American Academy of Arts and Letters". artsandletters.org. Retrieved September 24, 2018.
- Saunders, George (June 14, 1999). "I Can Speak!". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved January 24, 2018.
- "#14: I Can Speak! by George Saunders". Retrieved September 24, 2018.
- "On George Saunders: "The Barber's Unhappiness" and "I CAN SPEAK!"". Retrieved September 24, 2018.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 17, 2018. Retrieved January 17, 2018.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- Preston, Alex. "Fox 8 by George Saunders review – wisdom in the woods". theguardian.com. The Guardian. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
- Aphoristic essay on brown paper Chipotle bag, available on archive.org.
- ""Mother's Day"". Retrieved September 24, 2018.
- Promotional chapbook of essays, limited to 500 copies to accompany the book In persuasion nation.
- Convocation speech delivered at Syracuse University for the class of 2013, published on the website of the New York Times.
- Online version is titled "Who are all these Trump supporters?".
- Official website
- "George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You'll Read This Year", Joel Lovell, The New York Times Magazine, January 3, 2013
- 2014 George Saunders interview with Jon Niccum, Kansas City Star
- 10 Free Stories by George Saunders Available on the Web
- "Adjust Your Vision: Tolstoy's Last and Darkest Novel", George Saunders, NPR, January 6, 2013
- "Radio Interview with George Saunders" on Read First, Ask Later (Ep. 27 – SEASON FINALE)
- "George Saunders: On Story", by Sarah Klein & Tom Mason, Redglass Pictures, The Atlantic, December 8, 2015