Monday, October 17, 2005

Last But Not In Any Way Least

Is George Saunders. I finally got around to reading CommComm, the story that came out in the New Yorker about two months ago, and it was, well, I dunno, the dude never disappoints me. He’s so f-ing funny and smart, always, but the story takes a turn near the end I completely wasn’t expecting, which I won’t tell you because you should just go read it. I’ve come to be certain that in any Saunders story there’s always going to be a part that just kills me, and as usual he went above and beyond, and frankly, no matter how many interviews I read with him, I just don’t know how he does it, and believe me, it’s not because he doesn’t explain it well, because he’s as clear as anyone can be about his process. In fact, I have the impression that his process bears some similarities to my own, at least to the extent that he often talks about coming to rely on what he knows are his strengths as a writer rather than try to do things he just knows he can’t successfully do. We veer off when he goes and becomes all George-Saundery and creates completely outrageous but still so essentially real characters and places and like, manages to layer it with religion, politics and important-like stuff almost without your even noticing, until you’re done with the story and you’re like, Damn, George Saunders, how the hell did you do that – again? I was still in the middle of the story when I became possessed with the idea that I have to write thank-you letters to all my favorite writers for being such a critical part of why my life is so totally kick-ass. Emphasis on the word “idea”. I haven’t assaulted any of them with my insanity just yet. Well, actually I did once write a long crazy email to Saunders quite a while ago, and he was incredibly kind to write back and say thank you. But you know, what if George Saunders, like, left the house with the coffeepot on, and came home to that nasty smell that happens when the coffee gets all burny and bubbly in the bottom of the pot, and plus his kids are all like, Dad, you forgot to turn the coffee off again, and maybe they’re all grateful he didn’t burn the house down but he’s feeling bad just the same and gets a letter from someone saying how how happy he makes them just to be a living person reading his stories, that would help a little, right?

6 comments:

Angela said...

I'm intrigued by the mystery that is George Saunders. That's awesome that he wrote you back. I have accosted Charlie Baxter via email and he was absolutely charming and smart. I say, Good for you--it's okay to be a little crazy for great authors--so long as you're not stealing his trash.

Dean said...

I have not read George Saunders. But I like people who create outrageous-but-still-real characters (because outrageous, unbelievable characters are a waste of time, IMO), and so I would probably like George Saunders.

I'll bet that if he'd burned the coffee, your letter would have cheered him immensely. And it might have saved him from driving angry. Picture George stomping out of the house, the foul odor of black coffee crust following him. He might have jumped in his car, cursing under his breath, and driven off furiously, his nostrils twitching with the remembered pong of forgotten coffee. While in that state, he would almost certainly have missed that tight turn three corners from the grocery store and slid into a utility pole, banging his head on the windshield and giving himself a big owwie. It probably would have affected his memory and caused him to stop writing.

So all in all, I'd say it's a damn good thing you sent that letter.

B. E. Pinkham said...

Based on my personal experiences with writing thank you letters to favorite authors, I say you should definitely do it. I've written letters for four authors, sent them to three (to you my dear, you-know-who and someone else) and have been deeply satisfied with both my expression of gratitude and the replies. Be sure that no one will be sorry to receive your thanks. As for long and crazy letters, they're the best kind!

George Saunders said...

Re: "But you know, what if George Saunders, like, left the house with the coffeepot on, and came home to that nasty smell that happens when the coffee gets all burny and bubbly in the bottom of the pot, and plus his kids are all like, Dad, you forgot to turn the coffee off again, and maybe they’re all grateful he didn’t burn the house down but he’s feeling bad just the same and gets a letter from someone saying how how happy he makes them just to be a living person reading his stories, that would help a little, right?"

Of course, yes! How could being as generous as I remember you being in your letter NOT help? This is completely what often happens around here: I'm having a crap day and out of the blue comes a kind voice saying that this quasi-secret thing I spend most of my time doing or thinking about is not entirely stupid. I am ALWAYS happy to hear from a reader. Especially a generous and articulate one. The thing is, somebody writing a story...is never sure. So when somebody else says the story worked for them, or mattered a little, or didn't competel suck, that is immensely cheering. So thanks for writing, Elizabeth and also for reading my stuff.

So I say, everybody write to your favorite Whoever. Why shouldn't we? I wrote to one of my favorite writers, Samantha Power, and sent her a book, and got a wonderful note back. ("Only connect!")

I hope it's not weird that I'm writing this but "a friend" found the site and told me to have a look etc etc. I definitely wasn't Googling myself or something weird like that, no way.

Peace,

George Saunders

Elizabeth Crane said...

George Saunders, it would be so not weird even if you did Google yourself (one of my favorite pastimes) this only confirms that you are the MOST rad dude ever existing who isn’t my husband. Now you’ve gone and made MY day, where I was supposed to be making your day because I’ve been too busy working to write all the letters I’ve been wanting to write. It’s true, though about getting (and writing!) letters, right, because I’ve been getting about one a week (!), and when somebody writes you all the way from France saying how much they love your book, and writes back after you write them saying thank you, saying things like, “I couldn’t believe it! Magical internet… Write to the writer you read, and read what the writer you read writes to the reader you are...Incredible! Americans are so kindly!” (and also providing the information that the translation of the title of your book is something like “Bottom in Fire”, which makes no sense whatsoever but is almost better than the real one) well, that’s nothing but a wonderful thing. Rock on.

Betsy said...

By the way, anyone reading this, that was so totally my own personal Marshall McLuhan in Annie Hall momennt.