Charles Yu & George Saunders Reunited
By LARB StaffSeptember 20, 2023
From the LARB Archive:
George Saunders’s writing has a whiplash effect, almost like going on a roller coaster just to feel the anticipation of the big drop. LARB readers are most likely familiar with Saunders—winner of the Man Booker, a National Book Award Finalist, a MacArthur Fellowship recipient, one of Time Magazine’s most influential people—and his ability to turn the experience of reading into a thrilling, touching, and hilarious ride. As Charles Yu explains in his review, “A Drop of Concentrated Empathy: On Brokenness and Beauty in the Stories of George Saunders,” “I will never again get to experience Saunders for the first time, that moment of incongruously opposing sensations: recognition and shock, simultaneously understanding that I had stumbled upon something eternal and completely new … it’s not quite as surprising anymore—when I start a Saunders story now, I am fully expecting to have my brain tickled and my heart punched in the balls. The fact that I do expect this, and that his work still delivers that punch, is nothing short of amazing.”
Ten years later, Saunders’s influence on Yu’s work is clear. Yu’s hit novel, Interior Chinatown, winner of the 2020 National Book Award, is written entirely in the form of a screenplay. The playful scaffolding hearkens back to Saunders’s methods of challenging narrative form. The line that connects them comes from that patented drop of concentrated empathy and a sweeping view of human nature. Yu says, “Saunders can, with a devastating line or two, suggest volumes of pain occurring just off the page—can make you understand that for every one of these characters, there are whole histories floating just under the surface of the story.”
Read the original review here, in preparation for joining the conversation with Saunders and Yu, as they discuss their addictive ability to inject of humanity into otherworldly stories, at the LARB Luminary Dinner.
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