George Saunders (born December 2, 1958) is an American writer of short stories, essays, novellas, children's books, and novels. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, McSweeney's, and GQ. He also contributed a weekly column, American Psyche, to the weekend magazine of The Guardian between 2006 and 2008.A professor at Syracuse University, Saunders won the National Magazine Award for fiction in 1994, 1996, 2000, and 2004, and second prize in the O. Henry Awards in 1997. His first story collection, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, was a finalist for the 1996 PEN/Hemingway Award. In 2006 Saunders received a MacArthur Fellowship. In 2006 he won the World Fantasy Award for his short story "CommComm".His story collection In Persuasion Nation was a finalist for the Story Prize in 2007. In 2013, he won the PEN/Malamud Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Saunders's Tenth of December: Stories won the 2013 Story Prize for short-story collections and the inaugural (2014) Folio Prize. His novel Lincoln in the Bardo (Bloomsbury Publishing) won the 2017 Man Booker Prize.
Early life and education
Saunders was born in Amarillo, Texas. He grew up in Oak Forest, Illinois near Chicago, attended St. Damian Catholic School and graduated from Oak Forest High School in Oak Forest, Illinois. In 1981, he received a B.S. in geophysical engineering from Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. Of his scientific background, Saunders has said, "... any claim I might make to originality in my fiction is really just the result of this odd background: basically, just me working inefficiently, with flawed tools, in a mode I don't have sufficient background to really understand. Like if you put a welder to designing dresses."In 1988, he was awarded an M.A. in creative writing from Syracuse University; while there, he met Paula Redick, a fellow writer, who would become his wife. Saunders recalled, "we [got] engaged in three weeks, a Syracuse Creative Writing Program record that, I believe, still stands."Regarding his influences, Saunders has written:
I really love Russian writers, especially from the 19th and early 20th Century: Gogol, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Babel. I love the way they take on the big topics. I'm also inspired by a certain absurdist comic tradition that would include influences like Mark Twain, Daniil Kharms, Groucho Marx, Monty Python, Steve Martin, Jack Handey, etc. And then, on top of that, I love the strain of minimalist American fiction writing: Sherwood Anderson, Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver, Tobias Wolff.
Background and work
From 1989 to 1996, Saunders worked as a technical writer and geophysical engineer for Radian International, an environmental engineering firm in Rochester, New York. He also worked for a time with an oil exploration crew in Sumatra.Since 1997, Saunders has been on the faculty of Syracuse University, teaching creative writing in the school's MFA program while continuing to publish fiction and non-fiction. In 2006, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and a $500,000 MacArthur Fellowship. He was a Visiting Writer at Wesleyan University and Hope College in 2010 and participated in Wesleyan's Distinguished Writers Series and Hope College's Visiting Writers Series. His non-fiction collection, The Braindead Megaphone, was published in 2007.Saunders's fiction often focuses on the absurdity of consumerism, corporate culture, and the role of mass media. While many reviewers mention his writing's satirical tone, his work also raises moral and philosophical questions. The tragicomic element in his writing has earned Saunders comparisons to Kurt Vonnegut, whose work has inspired him.The film rights to CivilWarLand in Bad Decline were purchased by Ben Stiller in the late 1990s; as of 2007, the project was in development by Stiller's company, Red Hour Productions. Saunders has also written a feature-length screenplay based on his short story "Sea Oak".Saunders considered himself an Objectivist in his twenties but now views the philosophy unfavorably, likening it to neoconservatism. He is now a student of Nyingma Buddhism.
Saunders has won the National Magazine Award for Fiction four times: in 1994, for "The 400-Pound CEO" (published in Harper's); in 1996, for "Bounty" (also published in Harper's); in 2000, for "The Barber's Unhappiness" (published in The New Yorker); and in 2004, for "The Red Bow" (published in Esquire). Saunders won second prize in the 1997 O. Henry Awards for his short story "The Falls", initially published in the January 22, 1996 issue of The New Yorker.His first short-story collection, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, was a finalist for the 1996 PEN/Hemingway Award.In 2001, Saunders received a Lannan Literary Fellowship in Fiction from the Lannan Foundation.In 2006, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation. That same year, he received a MacArthur Fellowship. His short-story collection In Persuasion Nation was a finalist for The Story Prize in 2006. In 2006, he also won the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story for his short story "CommComm", first published in the August 1, 2005 issue of The New Yorker.In 2009, Saunders received an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2014, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.In 2013, Saunders won the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. His short-story collection Tenth of December won the 2013 Story Prize. The collection also won the inaugural Folio Prize in 2014, "the first major English-language book prize open to writers from around the world." The collection was also a finalist for the National Book Award, and was named one of the "10 Best Books of 2013" by the editors of the New York Times Book Review.
In a January 2013 cover story, The New York Times Magazine called Tenth of December "the best book you'll read this year." One of the stories from the collection, "Home", was a 2011 Bram Stoker Award finalist.In 2017, Saunders published his first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, which won the Man Booker Prize and was a New York Times bestseller.
Awards and honors
National Magazine Award for Fiction, 1994 – "The 400-Pound CEO", short story, published in Harper's Magazine
National Magazine Award for Fiction, 1996 – "Bounty", short story, published in Harper's Magazine
National Magazine Award for Fiction, 2000 – "The Barber's Unhappiness", short story, published in The New Yorker
National Magazine Award for Fiction, 2004 – "The Red Bow", short story, published in Esquire
2nd Prize in the 1997 O. Henry Awards – "The Falls", short story, published in The New Yorker (January 22, 1996 issue)
Lannan Foundation – Lannan Literary Fellowship, 2001
MacArthur Fellowship, 2006
Guggenheim Fellowship, 2006
American Academy of Arts and Letters, Academy Award, 2009
World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story – "CommComm", published in The New Yorker (August 1, 2005 issue)
PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story, 2013
The Story Prize, 2013 – Tenth of December: Stories
Folio Prize, 2014 – Tenth of December: Stories
The New York Times Book Review, "10 Best Books of 2013", Tenth of December: Stories
American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Elected as Member, 2014
Booker Prize, 2017 – Lincoln in the Bardo
American Academy of Arts and Letters, Inducted as Member, 2018
Premio Gregor von Rezzori, 2018
Kulturhuset Stadsteatern International Literary Prize, 2018Finalist honors
PEN/Hemingway Award, 1996 – Finalist – CivilWarLand in Bad Decline
The Story Prize, 2006 – Finalist – In Persuasion Nation
National Book Award for Fiction, 2014 – Finalist – Tenth of December: Stories
Bram Stoker Award, 2011 – Finalist – "Home" (short story)Bibliography
Lincoln in the Bardo (2017) (novel)Short fiction
CollectionsCivilWarLand in Bad Decline (1996) (short stories and a novella)
Pastoralia (2000) (short stories and a novella)
In Persuasion Nation (2006) (short stories)
Tenth of December: Stories (2013) (short stories)StoriesEssays and reporting
— (2006). A bee stung me, so I killed all the fish (notes from the Homeland 2003–2006). Riverhead Books.
— (2007). The Braindead Megaphone (collected essays).
— (Autumn 2009). "The view from the South Side, 1970". Granta (108): 120–122.
— (2014). "Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness".
— (July 11–18, 2016). "Trump days : up close with the candidate and his crowds". American Chronicles. The New Yorker. Vol. 92 no. 21. pp. 50–61.
— (2021). A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life.Anthologies
Fakes: An Anthology of Pseudo-Interviews, Faux-Lectures, Quasi-Letters, "Found" Texts, and Other Fraudulent Artifacts, edited by David Shields and Matthew Vollmer (2012)Notes
"George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You'll Read This Year", Joel Lovell, The New York Times Magazine, January 3, 2013
10 Free Stories by George Saunders Available on the Web
"Adjust Your Vision: Tolstoy's Last and Darkest Novel", George Saunders, NPR, January 6, 2013
"Radio Interview with George Saunders" on Read First, Ask Later (Ep. 27 – Season Finale) 2014 - college radio book talk show - Lehigh Carbon Community College
"George Saunders: On Story", by Sarah Klein & Tom Mason, Redglass Pictures, The Atlantic, December 8, 2015