The universal human laws - need, love for the beloved, fear, hunger, periodic exaltation, the kindness that rises up naturally in the absence of hunger/fear/pain - are constant, predictable, reliable, universal, and are merely ornamented with the details of local culture.— George Saunders
The most thrilling George Saunders quotes that will transform you to a better person
I tend to foster drama via bleakness.
If I want the reader to feel sympathy for a character, I cleave the character in half, on his birthday. And then it starts raining. And he's made of sugar.
What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.
Don't be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end, amen.
The scariest thought in the world is that someday I'll wake up and realize I've been sleepwalking through my life: underappreciating the people I love, making the same hurtful mistakes over and over, a slave to neuroses, fear, and the habitual.
I'm trying to read/edit my story as if I have no existing knowledge of the story, no investment in it, no sense of what Herculean effort went into writing page 23, no pretensions as to why the dull patch on page 4 is important for the fireworks that will happen on page 714.
Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial.
We have that illusion that we are 'deciding' what to make a character do, in order to 'convey our message' or something like that. But, at least in my experience, you are often more like a river-rafting guide who's been paid a bonus to purposely steer your clients into the roughest possible water.
Developing our sympathetic compassion is not only possible but the only reason for us to be here on earth.
According to me, your life is going to be a gradual process of becoming kinder and more loving. Hurry up. Speed it along. Start right now.
It's a big world, and I really like it.
The generalizing writer is like the passionate drunk, stumbling into your house mumbling: I know I'm not being clear, exactly, but don't you kind of feel what I'm feeling?
Reading is a form of prayer, a guided meditation that briefly makes us believe we're someone else, disrupting the delusion that we're permanent and at the center of the universe. Suddenly (we're saved!) other people are real again, and we're fond of them.
I'm always aware of writing around things I can't do, and I've come to think that that's actually what 'style' is - an avoidance of your deficiencies.
Kindness, it turns out, is hard - it starts out all rainbows and puppy dogs, and expands to include . . . well, EVERYTHING.
I wasted a lot of years working on my writing and very grandly saying, 'And now.
.. My Novel!,' which would soon be reduced to a short story, then to a paragraph.
When something really bad is going on in a culture, the average guy doesn't see it. He can't. He's average and is surrounded by and immersed in the cant and discourse of the status quo.
We try, we fail, we posture, we aspire, we pontificate - and then we age, shrink, die, and vanish.
I was a big and un-ironic fan of Dear Abby when I was a kid in Chicago.
I think I sort of internalized her. So I have this inner Abby: cranky, proper, folksy yet scathing, with a beehive hairdo. But that's my issue.
There comes that phase in life when, tired of losing, you decide to stop losing, then continue losing. Then you decide to really stop losing, and continue losing. The losing goes on and on so long you begin to watch with curiosity, wondering how low you can go.
Irony is just honesty with the volume cranked up.
The best thing that ever happened to me is that nothing happened in writing.
I ended up working for engineering companies, and that's where I found my material, in the everyday struggle between capitalism and grace. Being broke and tired, you don't come home your best self.
I'm not a big fan of my books going on cross-country road trips.
They get arrogant and, next thing, start aspiring to become 'large-print' books. I say, let them stay home and be regular small-print books.
In Catholicism, we would say you're going to be judged, so therefore you should do better now. For me, Buddhism is somewhat more workable because instead of saying I have to do good, it says I have to notice what I'm actually doing.
So here's something I know to be true, although it's a little corny, and I don't quite know what to do with it.
Still, accomplishment is unreliable. "Succeeding," whatever that might mean to you, is hard, and the need to do so constantly renews itself (success is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it), and there's the very real danger that "succeeding" will take up your whole life, while the big questions go untended.
It really strikes me how much of your energy in America, especially if you're from a working back-ground, is spent just keeping your head above water. It really saps your grace and your strength.
...smile first, then speak.
There's a really nice moment in the life of a piece of writing where the writer starts to get a feeling of it outgrowing him - or he starts to see it having a life of its own that doesn't have anything to do with his ego or his desire to 'be a good writer'.
The idea of inclusion has become kind of a stone that we've passed our hand over so many times that it doesn't mean anything.
So, good news/bad news: good news that I'm progressing; bad news that life is short and art is long.
I think it is time for a new pride in the intellectual life, and a new impatience with people who take pride in ignorance, or somehow use "elite" to mean "person who has taken the time to know" and then are eager to dismiss, say, striving, or the notion that improving one's self out of difficult conditions is a noble thing.
When you read a short story, you come out a little more aware and a little more in love with the world around you. What I want is to have the reader come out just 6 percent more awake to the world.
I attended Catholic school. We received a great education from the nuns. ... Also, guilt. Guilt and a feeling of never being satisfied with what you've done. And a sense that you are inadequate and a big phony. All useful for a writer. I'm always being edited by my inner nun.
I think kindness is a sort of gateway virtue - having that simple aspiration can get you into deep water very quickly - in a good way.
I was, not an altar boy, but a reader of the Epistle, and I walked in on a nun and a priest furiously French kissing when I was in seventh grade. I walked in, saw it, and went, "No way," backed out, composed myself, and went back in, and it was still going on. And the experience of seeing that was actually very deep.
On one level, I am a total softie, sort of depressed and afraid of losing the people I love or failing them. To disguise that, there's all this harsh, poop-centric, external swagger, full of nastiness. I'm a cloaking device.
If I go to the coffee shop and have a nice interaction with the barista, I don't know what that does for world peace, but we have to assume that in the great basket of goodness maybe that's one little micron or one little neutron that you've put in there.
Success makes opportunities and so many of those "opportunities" are actually exemptions - from hardship, from unfriendliness, from struggle.
Fiction is a kind of compassion-generating machine that saves us from sloth.
Is life kind or cruel? Yes, Literature answers. Are people good or bad? You bet, says Literature. But unlike other systems of knowing, Literature declines to eradicate one truth in favor of another.
When I wrote that [Donald] Trump piece, I had this uncomfortable experience of sensing a lot of things that were nascent, that I couldn't quite articulate. And one of them was this move toward anti-intellectualism. An anti-love move, even.
In art, and maybe just in general, the idea is to be able to be really comfortable with contradictory ideas. In other words, wisdom might be, seem to be, two contradictory ideas both expressed at their highest level and just let to sit in the same cage sort of, vibrating. So, I think as a writer, I'm really never sure of what I really believe.
My habit would have been to veer towards the dark - to prove I was something;
edgy, or maybe to prove that I was cognisant of the dark side. Now, with age and confidence, I can say, yeah, that's true, but I am cognisant of the fact that people can do things well. And can be more loving than you expect.
The cool parts - the parts that have won Dubai its reputation as 'the Vegas of the Middle East' or 'the Venice of the Middle East' or 'the Disney World of the Middle East, if Disney World were the size of San Francisco and out in a desert' - have been built in the last ten years.
Intelligent, heartfelt stories that tell a whole new set of truths about growing up American. Julie Orringer writes with virtuosity and depth about the fears, cruelties, and humiliations of childhood, but then does that rarest, and more difficult, thing: writes equally beautifully about the moments of victory and transcendence.
My idea about collections is that you write as hard as you can for some period and what you're really doing during that time is hyper-focusing on the individual pieces - trying to make each one sit up and really do some surprising work.
If a writer understands his work as something that originates with him but then, with any luck, gets away from him, then what he needs is someone who can grasp the potential of the piece and lead him to that higher ground.
More and more these days what I find myself doing in my stories is making a representation of goodness and a representation of evil and then having those two run at each other full-speed, like a couple of PeeWee football players, to see what happens. Who stays standing? Whose helmet goes flying off?
The thing I've discovered that is a help is that there isn't a simple virtue or a simple vice. They're always connected. If you have Tendency A, that you loathe, you can almost be sure that Tendency B, which you love, is somehow connected to it.
I would say one thing writing this book [Lincoln in the Bardo] did for me was underscore the fact that this issue [all men are created equal] has never been properly addressed and it hasn't gone away.