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George Saunders Conducts a Cheery Class on Fiction’s Possibilities

George Saunders Conducts a Cheery Class on Fiction’s Possibilities
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George Saunders Conducts a Cheery Class on Fiction’s Possibilities

George Saunders Conducts a Cheery Class on Fiction’s Potentialities

I’m making the ebook sound revoltingly technical. It isn’t. Saunders lives within the synapses — he seems in any respect the minute and significant choices that produce a sentence, a paragraph, a convincing character. He affords one of the crucial correct and delightful depictions of what it’s wish to be contained in the thoughts of the author that I’ve ever learn — that state of heightened alertness, lightning-quick choices.

The ebook may provoke comparisons to Nabokov’s traditional lectures on Russian literature, first delivered at Cornell. However the place Nabokov is all high-plumed prose and take away, presiding at his lectern, Saunders is at your elbow, ladling reward — “my good-hearted trooper,” he addresses us.

I don’t assume I’ve ever been referred to as a trooper earlier than. I’m undecided I prefer it.

Right here’s the place I have to admit that I can discover myself in an occasional bardo of kinds about Saunders, torn between admiration and wariness. The breadth of his perception in fiction is inspiring — and suspiciously flattering to the reader. “There’s an unlimited underground community for goodness at work on the earth,” he writes. “An internet of people that’ve put studying on the middle of their lives as a result of they know from expertise that studying makes them extra expansive, beneficiant folks.”

Now, I’m as self-interested a champion of fiction as anybody, however such overstatement does the shape no favors — at finest it feels naïve, at worst, deeply solipsistic. Is the invasion of Iraq finest understood as a “literary failure,” as Saunders has written? Can racism be described as an “antiliterary impulse”?

I believe Saunders is just too spiritually superior to learn his evaluations. If he did, nevertheless, I think about he may be beaming. “Good little trooper,” he may say.

There’s no cost I’ve made right here that Saunders hasn’t made himself. “I’m type of a knee-jerk Pollyanna-ish individual,” he has mentioned. “I like to seek out hope, generally irritatingly: ‘Oh, there’s a nail in my head. It’s nice, I’ll dangle a coat on it, that’ll be good.’”

And it’s this very kind of ambiguity in pondering that he reifies, and that fiction, he tells us, makes doable.

Within the part on Chekhov’s “The Darling,” Saunders writes that the story appears to ask us to take a seat in judgment of the character, to ask, “Is that this trait of hers good or dangerous?” Chekhov, he tells us, solutions: “Sure.”

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