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Listening Back to George Saunders

OPB | Sept. 1, 2014 12:06 p.m.

Basso Cannarsa / Random House

The stories in George Saunders’ books can be hilarious, terrifying, or heart-wrenching. More impressive, they can be all these things at once.

The world looks different after you’ve seen it through Saunders’ satirical fun-house mirror: the language of our daily lives is weirder; the moral quandaries are more stark; the lives of others loom larger.

Saunders is a Catholic boy turned Buddhist man, and a geophysical engineering grad who has become a master of all-too-human narratives. He won a MacArthur fellowship — known as a “Genius Grant” — in 2006. His latest collection of short stories is called Tenth of December. It was a finalist for last year’s National Book Award (and was described in The New York Times as “the best book you’ll read this year”).

We talked to George Saunders back in May, before he spoke to a group at Portland State University. We’re listening back to that conversation today because we enjoyed it so much — Saunders is charming, smart, and surprising — and because we’re giving ourselves a day off for Labor Day!

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