George Saunders

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George Saunders
George Saunders by David Shankbone.jpg
Born (1958-12-02) December 2, 1958 (age 64)
Amarillo, Texas, U.S.
  • Writer
  • journalist
  • college professor
Period1986–present [a]
Notable works
Notable awards
SpousePaula Redick[1]

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 Guardian's weekend magazine between 2006 and 2008.[3]

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 and won the World Fantasy Award for his short story "CommComm".[4]

His story collection In Persuasion Nation was a finalist for the Story Prize in 2007. In 2013, he won the PEN/Malamud Award[5] and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Saunders's Tenth of December: Stories won the 2013 Story Prize for short-story collections[6] and the inaugural (2014) Folio Prize.[7][8] His novel Lincoln in the Bardo (Bloomsbury Publishing) won the 2017 Booker Prize.[9]

Early life and education[edit]

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. He spent some of his early 20s working as a roofer in Chicago, a doorman in Beverly Hills, and a slaughterhouse knuckle-puller.[10][11] 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."[12]

In 1988, he was awarded an M.A. in creative writing from Syracuse University, where he worked with Tobias Wolff.[13] At Syracuse, he met Paula Redick, a fellow writer, whom he married. Saunders recalled, "we [got] engaged in three weeks, a Syracuse Creative Writing Program record that, I believe, still stands".[1]

Of his influences,[13] 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.[14]


Background and work[edit]

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 in the early 1980s.[11][15]

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 nonfiction.[13][16] 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 nonfiction collection, The Braindead Megaphone, was published in 2007.[17]

Saunders's fiction often focuses on the absurdity of consumerism, corporate culture, and the role of mass media. Many reviewers mention his writing's satirical tone, but 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.[18]

Ben Stiller bought the film rights to CivilWarLand in Bad Decline in the late 1990s; as of 2007, the project was in development by Stiller's company, Red Hour Productions.[19] Saunders has also written a feature-length screenplay based on his short story "Sea Oak".[20]

Saunders considered himself an Objectivist in his twenties but now views the philosophy unfavorably, likening it to neoconservatism.[21] He is a student of Nyingma Buddhism.[2]


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).[22] 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.[23][24]

His first short-story collection, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, was a finalist for the 1996 PEN/Hemingway Award.[25]

In 2001, Saunders received a Lannan Literary Fellowship in Fiction from the Lannan Foundation.[26]

In 2006, Saunders was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.[27] Also that year, he received a MacArthur Fellowship;[28] his short-story collection In Persuasion Nation was a finalist for The Story Prize;[29] and he 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.[30][4]

In 2009, Saunders received an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.[31][32] In 2014, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[33]

In 2013, Saunders won the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story.[34] His short-story collection Tenth of December won the 2013 Story Prize.[6] The collection also won the inaugural Folio Prize in 2014, "the first major English-language book prize open to writers from around the world".[7][35][36][8] The collection was also a finalist for the National Book Award[37] and was named one of the "10 Best Books of 2013" by the editors of the New York Times Book Review.[38] In a January 2013 cover story, The New York Times Magazine called Tenth of December "the best book you'll read this year".[39] One of the stories in the collection, "Home", was a 2011 Bram Stoker Award finalist.[40]

In 2017, Saunders published his first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, which won the Booker Prize and was a New York Times bestseller.

Awards and honors[edit]

Awards won[edit]

Finalist honors[edit]



Short fiction[edit]


Title Year First published Reprinted/collected Notes
I can speak!™ 1999 Saunders, George (June 21–28, 1999). "I can speak!™". The New Yorker.
  • In Persuasion Nation
  • Saunders, George (December 30, 2019). "I can speak!™". The New Yorker. Vol. 95, no. 42. pp. 57–58.
Often acclaimed as among his best short stories.[43][44]
The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip 2000 Children's book
"Four Institutional Monologues" 2000 McSweeney's 4th story included in In Persuasion Nation Originally released as a booklet[45]
The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil 2005 Novella
"Fox 8"[46] 2013, 2018 Fox 8 (2018) First released as an e-book in 2013, the story was later published in hardcover by Random House in 2018.[47]
"A Two-Minute Note to the Future" 2014 Aphoristic essay on brown paper Chipotle bag.[48]

Essays and reporting[edit]


  • Fakes: An Anthology of Pseudo-Interviews, Faux-Lectures, Quasi-Letters, "Found" Texts, and Other Fraudulent Artifacts, edited by David Shields and Matthew Vollmer (2012)
  • Cappelens Forslags Conversational Lexicon Volume II, edited by Pil Cappelen Smith, published by Cappelens Forslag (2016) ISBN 978-82-999643-4-0



  1. ^ In the "Author's Note" to the 2012 paperback reprint of CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, Saunders writes about an early story he published in 1986, titled "A Lack of Order in the Floating Object Room," which he (quote): "used it to get into Syracuse. This story was originally published in Northwest Review, Volume 24, Number 2, in 1986."


  1. ^ a b Saunders, George. "My Writing Education: A Time Line". The New Yorker. Retrieved October 26, 2015.
  2. ^ a b Lovell, Joel (January 3, 2013). "George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You'll Read This Year". The New York Times. The New York Times Magazine.
  3. ^ "American psyche | Life and style". The Guardian. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
  4. ^ a b World Fantasy Convention (2010). "Award Winners and Nominees". Archived from the original on December 1, 2010. Retrieved February 4, 2011.
  5. ^ "Saunders Wins PEN/Malamud Award". Archived from the original on May 5, 2013. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
  6. ^ a b Dark, Larry (March 5, 2014). "TSP: George Saunders Wins His First Book Award, The Story Prize, for Tenth of December". The Story Prize (Press release). Retrieved September 25, 2022.
  7. ^ a b Ron Charles (March 10, 2014). "George Saunders wins $67,000 for first Folio Prize". Washington Post. Retrieved March 11, 2014.
  8. ^ a b "Tenth of December by George Saunders wins inaugural Folio Prize 2014" (PDF). Folio Prize. March 10, 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 11, 2014. Retrieved March 11, 2014.
  9. ^ "Booker winner took 20 years to write". October 18, 2017.
  10. ^ Dankowski, Terra (September 1, 2022). "Newsmaker: George Saunders". American Libraries. Retrieved September 25, 2022.
  11. ^ a b Miller, Laura (April 26, 2000). "Knuckle-puller makes good". Retrieved November 20, 2022.
  12. ^ Childers, Doug (July 1, 2000). "The Wag Chats with George Saunders". The Wag. Retrieved June 4, 2007.
  13. ^ a b c Enslin, Rob (May 24, 2022). "Writing a Legacy". Syracuse University. Retrieved November 20, 2022.
  14. ^ "George Saunders – Cultivating Thought". June 3, 2016. Archived from the original on June 3, 2016. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  15. ^ "Ayn Rand is for children". January 19, 2013. Retrieved August 11, 2014.
  16. ^ a b Moore, Sophia (November 16, 2022). "George Saunders talks teaching, life experience and writing at Alumni Academy". The Daily Orange. Retrieved November 18, 2022.
  17. ^ Silverblatt, Michael (December 27, 2007). "George Saunders: The Braindead Megaphone". Bookworm. KCRW. Retrieved September 25, 2022.
  18. ^ Saunders, George. "God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut". Amazon. Retrieved June 4, 2007.
  19. ^ Whitney, Joel. "Dig the Hole: An Interview with George Saunders". Archived from the original on March 12, 2007. Retrieved June 1, 2007.
  20. ^ Vollmer, Matthew. "'Knowable in the Smallest Fragment': An Interview with George Saunders". Retrieved June 1, 2007.
  21. ^ Bemis, Alec Hanley (May 10, 2006). "Mean Snacks and Monkey Shit". LA Weekly. pp. 12–27. Archived from the original on September 4, 2006. Retrieved June 4, 2007.
  22. ^ "Winners and Finalists Database". ASME. Archived from the original on October 10, 2018. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  23. ^ "The Falls". The New Yorker.
  24. ^ "The O. Henry Prize Stories".
  25. ^ "George Saunders". Retrieved October 18, 2017.
  26. ^ Clark, Judi. "George Saunders". Lannan Foundation. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
  27. ^ "John Simon Guggenheim Foundation". Retrieved October 18, 2017.
  28. ^ "George Saunders". MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
  29. ^ "The Story Prize - Winners & Finalists 2012". Archived from the original on April 15, 2015. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  30. ^ "Commcomm". The New Yorker. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
  31. ^ Staff (April 14, 2009). "The American Academy Of Arts And Letters Announces 2009 Literature Award Winners" (PDF) (Press release). New York: American Academy of Arts and Letters. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  32. ^ "2009 Literature Award Winners". Retrieved October 18, 2017.
  33. ^ "Press Releases". American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
  34. ^ "Past Award Winners". PEN/Faulkner. Archived from the original on October 1, 2017. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
  35. ^ "The 2014 Folio Prize Shortlist is Announced". Folio Prize. February 10, 2014. Retrieved February 13, 2014.
  36. ^ Wood, Gaby (February 10, 2014). "Folio Prize 2013: The Americans are coming, but not the ones we were expecting". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on February 11, 2014. Retrieved February 13, 2014.
  37. ^ "2013 National Book Award".
  38. ^ "The 10 Best Books of 2013". New York Times. 2013. Retrieved December 7, 2013.
  39. ^ Lovell, Joel (January 3, 2013). "George Saunders Just Wrote The Best Book You'll Read This Year". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  40. ^ "Bram Stoker Award 2011 Nominees". Locus Magazine. 2012. Retrieved May 2, 2012.
  41. ^ "2018 Newly Elected Members – American Academy of Arts and Letters". Retrieved September 24, 2018.
  42. ^ Boll, Carol (March 9, 2018). "George Saunders Elected to Academy of Arts and Letters". SU News. Retrieved April 29, 2021.
  43. ^ "#14: I Can Speak!™ by George Saunders". Archived from the original on July 12, 2018. Retrieved September 24, 2018.
  44. ^ "On George Saunders: "The Barber's Unhappiness" and "I CAN SPEAK!"". Retrieved September 24, 2018.
  45. ^ "Excerpts from McSweeney's Quarterly: Four Institutional Monologues".
  46. ^ "'Fox 8' by George Saunders: A fantastical tale from the Man Booker winner | Books | the Guardian". Archived from the original on January 17, 2018. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  47. ^ Preston, Alex (November 27, 2018). "Fox 8 by George Saunders review – wisdom in the woods". The Guardian. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
  48. ^ "Aphoristic essay on brown paper Chipotle bag". June 3, 2016. Archived from the original on June 3, 2016. Retrieved September 25, 2022.
  49. ^ Promotional chapbook of essays, limited to 500 copies to accompany the book In persuasion nation.
  50. ^ Convocation speech delivered at Syracuse University for the class of 2013
  51. ^ Online version is titled "Who are all these Trump supporters?".
  52. ^ Sehgal, Parul (January 12, 2021). "George Saunders Conducts a Cheery Class on Fiction's Possibilities". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 25, 2021.

External links[edit]