George Saunders

  • Aired:  01/29/13
  •  | Views: 23,132

The MacArthur Grant Fellow uses analogies to explain why he prefers short stories over novels. (5:59)

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

>> Stephen: WELCOME BACK, EVERYBODY.

MY GUEST IS THE AUTHOR OF THE SHORT STORY COLLECTION "TENTH OF DECEMBER." IT'S ABOUT TIME SOMEBODY

NOVELIZED THE CALENDAR.

PLEASE WELCOME GEORGE SAUNDERS.

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

GEORGE, GOOD TO HAVE YOU BACK.

>> GOOD TO BE HERE STEENCHT IT'S BEEN FIVE YEARS SINCE YOU WERE HERE.

>> TOO LONG.

>> TOO LONG.

>> Stephen: FOR THE PEOPLE WHO DON'T KNOW, THE FEW PEOPLE WHO DON'T KNOW YOU ARE A MACARTHUR

GRANT FELLOW AUTHOR OF SEVERAL COLLECTIONS OF SHORT STORIES.

YOU'VE GOT A NEW SCHEKS CALLED "THE TENTH OF DECEMBER." THIS IS THE THING.

THIS IS SHORT STORIES.

IN THE NORKTS MAGAZINE CALLED IT "THE BEST BOOK YOU'LL READ THIS YEAR." OKAY.

[ LAUGHTER ]

WHY DO YOU WRITE SHORT STORIES?

AMERICA LIKES BIG, GO BIG OR GO HOME.

WE LIKE BIG, HUGE, HUGE NOVELS.

>> I'LL TELL YOU WHY, THE WE'RE GOOD, WE'RE GOOD.

>> Stephen: CAN YOU IMAGINE THIS.

SAY YOU WERE MADLY IN LOVE WITH SOMEBODY AND YOUR MISSION WAS TO TELL THE PERSON THAT YOU LOVE THEM.

HERE IS TWO SCENARIOS.

ONE IS YOU CAN TAKE A WEEK LONG TRAIN TRIP WITH THE PERSON, TAKE YOUR TIME.

YOU'LL BE IN SITUATIONS, BEAUTIFUL SCENERY.

THAT'S A NOVEL AND THE SECOND SCENARIO IS --

>> Stephen: SOUNDS REALLY GOOD.

>> THE SECOND SCENARIO YOU IS STEP ON THE TRAIN AND YOU HAVE THREE MINUTES.

SO YOU HAVE TO MAKE ALL THAT DECORATION IN THREE MINUTES.

THAT WOULD BE A SHORT STORY.

>> Stephen: CAN I GET ON THE TRAIN WITH HER?

>> NO.

>> Stephen: WHY CAN'T I GET ON THE TRAIN?

>> BECAUSE IT'S A SHORT STORY YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED.

YOU HAVE TO END IT IN EIGHT PAGES AND GET OUT.

>> Stephen: IT'S A SHORT STORY I WANT TO READ.

WHERE IS SHE GOING?

WHY CAN'T GO I WITH HER.

DOES SHE LOVE ME BACK?

I HAVE TO KNOW.

>> SOMETIMES THE SHORT STORIES ENDS WITH THAT QUESTION, DOES SHE LOVE ME BACK?

THAT'S IT.

>> Stephen: WHY PAY FOR A BOOK?

I WANT SOME WEIGHT BEHIND THE THING.

I'M SURE IT'S VERY GOOD BUT I LIKE TO PAY BY THE POUND.

[ LAUGHTER ]

THAT'S WHY I LOVE AYN RAND.

IT'S JUST TWO COVERS AND SHE SHOVELS WORDS IN BETWEEN.

[ LAUGHTER ]

>> THE THING WITH THE STORY IS IT'S KIND OF GENETICALLY RELATED TO A JOKE IN THAT IF I SAY, A

DUCK WALKED INTO A BAR THEN IT'S KIND OF A THROWDOWN.

EVERYBODY KNOWS IN THREE MINUTES I'M EITHER GOING TO BE LAUGHING OR THERE'S AN AWKWARD SILENCE.

HERE IN THIS STORY HERE IS EIGHT PAGES OF A STORY AND WHEN YOU GET TO THE END IT'S EITHER EH OR

THE PERSON IS CRYING.

>> Stephen: I UNDERSTAND COMPLETELY.

>> ABDUCTED ON THE TRAIN.

>> Stephen: SO SHORTER IS SOMETIMES BETTER.

>> YES.

>> Stephen: OKAY.

AND IT'S LIKE A JOKE.

>> BECAUSE IT'S KIND OF LIKE THIS IN LIFE THE CLOCK IS TICKING.

YOU SEE A FRIEND, YOU WANT TO SAY SOMETHING.

YOU WANT TO GIVE ADVICE, YOU WANT TO TELL THEM YOU CARE ABOUT THEM BUT IN REAL LIFE TIME GOES FAST.

THE READER FEELS SHE'S WITH YOU.

THE CLOCK IS TICKING.

YOU ARE TRYING DESPERATELY TO SAY SOMETHING IMPORTANT IT'SES NOT EASY YOU COULD BLOW IT.

IT'S ALMOST LIKE A POP SONG.

>> Stephen: IS IT A IS JOKE OR POP SONG?

>> IT'S BOTH.

IT'S A POP SONG WITH A JOKE.

>> Stephen: KNOCK, KNOCK.

>>S WHO THERE?

>> Stephen: SHORT STORY.

>> SHORT STORY WHO?

>> Stephen: SORRY, POP SONG.

[ LAUGHTER ]

>> FAIR ENOUGH.

[ LAUGHTER ]

>> Stephen: HERE IS ANOTHER THING.

DO YOU EVER THINK, DON'T GET ME WRONG, I LIKE YOUR STUFF.

I READ ONE OF THESE.

[ LAUGHTER ]

>> REALLY?

THANK YOU.

>> Stephen: I READ ONE.

MY FAVORITE ONE.

NOT QUITE TWO PAGES LONG.

WHY NOT A HAIKU?

WHY NOT ENCIEWD IT IN DNA AND INJECT IT INTO MY MIND?

TAKE A SHORT STORY AND CARVE IT ON THE HEAD OF A BULLET?

WHY NOT THAT?

LOOK FOR THAT IMPACT.

I LOVE YOU DON'T GET ON THE TRAIN.

BAM!

>> IT COULD WORK.

IT COULD WORK.

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

IT COULD WORK.

HEMINGWAY STORY.

>> Stephen: HE TOLD HIS OWN STORY.

>> DID HE INDEED.

HE HAS A SIX WORD STORY.

IT'S DEPRESSING.

SAYS THIS FOR IS SALE, BABY SHOES, NEVER WORN.

I KNOW BUT YOU COULD MAKE IT HAPPIER.

FOR SALE, BABY SHOES WORN OUT.

>> Stephen: BECAUSE KEPT THEM ON THE BABY TOO LONG.

[ LAUGHTER ]

>> Stephen: I'VE HEARD INFORMATION IS KINGIZE QUEENEDDIZED.

YOU WANT TO KNOW EVERYTHING.

WANT TO KNOW EVERYTHING.

WHY DOES SHE LOVE HIM SO MANY SNL THEY WERE EVERYTHING FOR EACH OTHER.

WHAT COUNTRY ARE THE KING AND QUEEN ON?

WHERE THEY REALLY IS KING AND QUEEN OR JUST IN EACH OTHER'S EYES.

>> YOU HAVE A NOVELIST THOUGHT FOR SURE.

>> Stephen: ARE YOU SAYING I DON'T KNOW WHEN TO SHUT SNUP.

>> NO, NO.

>> Stephen: THANK YOU FOR COMING BACK.

I LOOK FORWARD TO THE STORIES.

GEORGE SAUNDERS "THE TENTH OF