If you’re like me, you probably assumed you’d never read the phrase “George Saunders in O, the Oprah Magazine”, but this is where his latest short story has turned up. In the story, the author imagines what he’d say to an alien who asks him what it’s like to be human. For more on his work, go read our own Elizabeth Minkel on his legacy and recent collection.
People think of compassion as, like, kindness. The image comes to mind of some nice New Age guy bending to something with a look on his face like he’s about to cry. And I don’t think that’s it.
Truth be told, there were a number of regrettable omissions. Beyoncé and Jay Z’s piece ‘Bomber’ had to be left off the album. (‘Driver of this plane, this / B-52 on the way to Nagasaki / Stuff your ears with cotton and / Close those eyes / Me and my man are about to do it all over this / Here bomb’).
"What’s the kindest thing you almost did?" You’ll find this sentence by Jonathan Safran Foer on a Chipotle cup next time you eat a burrito there. The fast food restaurant will feature the short stories five authors, including Foer, Malcolm Gladwell, Toni Morrison, George Saunders, and Michael Lewis, on its cups, and unlike guacamole, they won’t cost extra. Unsurprisingly, Cormac McCarthy didn’t make a cup.
Tuesday New Release Day
Lots of new releases this week, among them a new paperback edition of Tenth of December by George Saunders. Also out: Leaving the Sea by Ben Marcus; The Radiance of Tomorrowby Ishmael Beah; On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee; The Scent of Pine by Lara Vapnyar; The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd; The Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani; and Little Failure by Year in Reading alum Gary Shteyngart. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great 2014 Book Preview.
Saunders’s Kafkaesque tales of humiliation, complicity, and dehumanization had struck an exposed nerve in the era of pervasive surveillance, smartphones, and bitter irony. But I wasn’t prepared for how moving several of the stories in this volume were — and how indelibly they’ve stayed in my mind.
Our own Edan Lepucki interviewed National Book Award finalists George Saunders and Rachel Kushner for the National Book Foundation. Saunders discussed money issues in his writing. “Now I feel like paucity vs. grace is one of the great American issues—we all live with it every day.” Kushner explained her writing process. “The sentences are beads on a string; I see each one as essential.”
And so, a prediction, and my heartfelt wish for you: as you get older, your self will diminish and you will grow in love. YOU will gradually be replaced by LOVE. If you have kids, that will be a huge moment in your process of self-diminishment. You really won’t care what happens to YOU, as long as they benefit. That’s one reason your parents are so proud and happy today. One of their fondest dreams has come true: you have accomplished something difficult and tangible that has enlarged you as a person and will make your life better, from here on in, forever.