Thursday, June 08, 2006

Saunders Week Endures!

Below are a few links to interviews with Saunders (there are countless others online, including one from Time Out London with some especially goofy questions - and answers) which I post as means to asking: How does hearing his thoughts about what he's trying to do illuminate (destroy?) your own experience of the work? I threw the word destroy in there because although I think it's unlikely in this case, I've read interviews with authors sometimes that have utterly baffled me. In the case of Saunders, I tend to feel like, oh good, I actually have gotten it, and also, he seems to be able to articulate himself, about his strengths and limitations as a writer, in interviews in a way I never seem to be able to. Perhaps this is both my strength and my limitation, but when people ask me questions about where my stories come from, sometimes I feel like the most honest answer is, “Seriously, I pulled this out of my ass.”

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6 comments:

B. E. Pinkham said...

I'm sorry I've missed the last 36 hours or so. I'm having really erratic internet issues (RCN issues, if anyone cares) Here's a list of things I would have liked to say from last night.
1. Slap-a-wak/Cracker-Jack/Mac-Attack-all of his product placements are just one tick off TDC ("Top Dead Center" for non-techs)and therefore, FUN!!!
2.His character's voices and dialects are wonderfully accurate, You can hear Chicagoans and upstate NYer's and TV-landians. And the language forms which are bent to corporate purposes are chilling. We hear it every day and even have those tapes or "ear worms" of TV commercial resonances. That he is able to make art out of all that dross is commendable and satisfying.
3.Are you against interpretation? I am! These stories are Art (or art, I'm not picky)so, as much as I've enjoyed reading what's been said, I'd rather keep reading and enjoying the stories than trying to verbalize precisely what makes them work.
4.Betsy's right about there being a vibrant remainder of hope here. I haven't gotten to read his interviews yet (wasn't there one in The Believer a few months ago?) but the guy must have a big, joyous heart. His love of humankind seems to be undefeated to me.
5. Before his death,in People mag., Warren Zevon said something about all art being fundamentally about being alive. Another famous musician is famously reported to have said, "If you don't know what Doo-wah-ditty means, don't mess with it."
6. Good night.I'm posting before my connection goes bad again.

Dean said...

I enjoyed reading all of the interviews. As someone who struggles to write, it is interesting to me to read that it took Saunders six years to produce Phil, a novella, and that he writes one short every three or four months.

I don't think there was anything in the interviews that changed the way I perceived the stories. I found myself nodding a time or two: yes, I thought you might say something like that, George, I found myself thinking. The picture of the author that emerges from the interviews fit the stories.

He confirmed that the stories are the result of a lot of hard work, which made me feel somewhat better. They are exquisite tales and I'd really hate it if he popped out one a week.

carolyn said...

in the morning news article, what really rang true to me was the bit about 'darkness': "let's assume for a minute that we are going to take certain human qualities out of the equation - we're going to exaggerate the whole mix a little bit and then have a whole book in that flavor."

I think in some stories, he takes out the worst qualities...but in some he takes out the best. and leaves it to the reader to think about what's missing - which may be more relevant to the point of the story than what's there. in some cases, anyway.

i was also interested when he talked about struggling to write about beautiful things/praise/uplift. how that's been a problem for him - something he wanted to wrestle with. the story "Jon" in this book is where he really accomplishes that. that story's ending has the most overall feeling of hope and not deluded-hope but actual things-are-changing hope, to my mind.

and in the zulkey diary when he talks about the distinction between "humorous" and "serious": and that much serious writing fails to take into account "the fact that we can't control [the insanity of the world], and all of our attempts at control - in our lives, in our thoughts, in our imagination of the world around us - are basically little denials of the real complexity and terror and beauty around us"

-- that is one of the 'freedoms' in his stories to me. he has taken the good (or the bad, depending on the story) out of a character or a situation...and then he has relinquished control.

Betsy said...

Ellen, I think interpretation is a tricky thing. As a writer, I always think, you see something in my story I didn't intend? FANTASTIC. It's probably there. (Unless it's like a secret message to reelect Bush for a third term. Then it's for sure a wrong interpretation.) So I guess I'm interested in different people's takes on the same story. Because although it seems, via the AWESOME discussion here this week, that by and large similar things are being taken away from these stories, the individual's reading experience is just so completely, er, individual. I'm sure some writers are very attached to what their intended meaning was, and it's not that I don't know what my intentions are with a story, but at the same time, I am always delighted to hear what different people take away from them. So, I have no idea if that addresses that point. Hee. As for #4, in my briefest of interactions with him, my sense is that you are 100% right. It's just kind of obvious. Even more in his nonfiction, which I highly recommend. I hear he has a book of it coming in the future. Also I love the WZ quote.

Austin Kleon said...

Reading about Saunders' experience as a father and as a 9-5 corporate man, reveals to me just how incredibly personal these seemingly absurd, whacky, dystopian (insert other used adjectives here) stories really are.

At the heart of Saunders' best characters ("Sea Oak," "Pastoralia," "CommComm," "Adams") I find the conflict between wanting to be a "good" person, pure and kind and gentle and loving towards the world, and the obligation to provide for and protect loved ones. And so these characters find themselves doing dispicable things (mostly working crap jobs) in the pursuit of securing a good life for their loved ones.

Work and family. What else is there?

Betsy said...

Very true, Austin Kleon, very true.