This Q&A with George Saunders, by Jim Hanas for Stay Free, is worth reading. Coincidentally I just started reading his collection, In Persuasion Nation. I always read his stuff in The New Yorker, and read one of his earlier books, CivilWarLand In Bad Decline. Saunders is an astonishing writer, both in terms of his use of language, in the perceptive intelligence that guides it — that is, he both has something to say, and knows how to say it.
So a quick excerpt from the Q&A:
STAY FREE!: When you look at American culture today—commercialism, reality TV, the war, all the things that are in your stories—what do you see? What is your diagnosis?
SAUNDERS: I’ll give you a couple answers. One, there’s a cultural divide between the people at the top and the people underneath. So, in commercials: who’s making them? A handful of people. Why are they making them? To persuade us to buy things. There’s a group of people who have the power to broadcast and to put this huge machine at their disposal—this very beautiful machine that can make incredible images and sounds—and then there’s the rest of the population, which is “done to.” I would say that the gap between the doers and the done to is wider than it’s ever been. The politicians—the people running the country—are isolated from us. I’m 47 and I’ve had one contact with a congressperson—[New York congresswoman] Louise Slaughter called me back one time when I wrote her a letter—but that’s it. I’ve called a number of them, and you know that somebody checks off a box and then that’s it. That’s a huge thing, and I think it’s a new thing. I don’t think that people have ever felt as powerless or unimportant.
To read his second answer, and the rest of the Q&A, go here.