George Saunders quotes

  • What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.
    -- George Saunders

    #Kindness #Regret #Advice

  • Success makes opportunities and so many of those "opportunities" are actually exemptions - from hardship, from unfriendliness, from struggle.
    -- George Saunders

    #Struggle #Opportunity #Hardship

  • The scariest thought in the world is that someday I'll wake up and realize I've been sleepwalking through my life: underappreciating the people I love, making the same hurtful mistakes over and over, a slave to neuroses, fear, and the habitual.
    -- George Saunders

    #Fear #Mistake #People

  • I'm not thinking much about overall themes or preoccupations or anything like that. Instead I'm just trusting that, if I'm working hard, various notions and riffs and motifs and so on are very naturally suffusing the stories and the resulting book.
    -- George Saunders

    #Book #Thinking #Stories

  • There comes that phase in life when, tired of losing, you decide to stop losing, then continue losing. Then you decide to really stop losing, and continue losing. The losing goes on and on so long you begin to watch with curiosity, wondering how low you can go.
    -- George Saunders

    #Tired #Long #Curiosity

  • I think even like Saddam Hussein or Hitler would wake up and say, "I think it's going to be a good day. I'm gonna do some really important work." And given their definition of good, they went out and did horrible things.
    -- George Saunders

    #Good Day #Thinking #Important

  • Don't be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end, amen.
    -- George Saunders

    #Life #Hurt #Confused

  • That's what a story must feel like to me. It's not, "I want to write about a gravedigger." But you're walking along and - boop! shovel. "Ok, what does one do with a shovel? Digs a hole. Why? I don't know yet. Dig the hole! Oh, look a body."
    -- George Saunders

    #Writing #Doe #Looks

  • Developing our sympathetic compassion is not only possible but the only reason for us to be here on earth.
    -- George Saunders

    #Compassion #Earth #Reason

  • The most hopeful thing in the stories, I hope, is wit. I make it up. If I make up a world in which we're ruled by big talking turds, it doesn't mean that we are. So you shouldn't feel depressed...
    -- George Saunders

    #Mean #Talking #Hopeful

  • Now I began to understand art as a kind of black box the reader enters. He enters in one state of mind and exits in another. The writer gets no points just because what's inside the box bears some linear resemblance to "real life" -- he can put whatever he wants in there. What's important is that something undeniable and nontrivial happens to the reader between entry and exit.
    -- George Saunders

    #Art #Real #Black

  • Positive human action is not only possible, but pervasive; human beings can improve and choose light and so on. And this is all happening.
    -- George Saunders

    #Light #Action #Humans

  • So here's something I know to be true, although it's a little corny, and I don't quite know what to do with it:
    -- George Saunders

    #Advice #Littles #Corny

  • I'm not a big fan of my books going on cross-country road trips. They get arrogant and, next thing, start aspiring to become 'large-print' books. I say, let them stay home and be regular small-print books.
    -- George Saunders

    #Country #Book #Home

  • That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality - your soul, if you will - is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Theresa’s. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.
    -- George Saunders

    #Mother #Believe #Personality

  • A writer writes what interests him and what he can manage, and what he can make live, as Flannery O'Connor said. So my reaction to someone saying "You must!" or "You should!" or even "Hey, why don't you?" is basically to sort of shrug and politely walk off and do whatever I want to do. It's nobody else's business, really, and even if I happened to agree with one of those "musts" or "shoulds" what would I do about it, if my heart wasn't in it?
    -- George Saunders

    #Writing #Heart #Want

  • What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded . . . sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.
    -- George Saunders

    #Graduation #Kindness #Regret

  • I love story-writing because I can (more or less, on occasion) actually DO it. That's really the truth. I like the idea that a story is sort of a site for making cool language effects - a site for celebrating language, and, therefore, the world. And the brevity is part of the challenge. I like stories because I get them - I know how to make beauty, or something like beauty, in that mode.
    -- George Saunders

    #Writing #Ideas #Challenges

  • My heart goes out to him. Sort of. Because empathy depends on how you've spent your day.
    -- George Saunders

    #Heart #Empathy #My Heart

  • On a more technical level, a story takes a lot of words. And to generate words and phrases and images and so on, that will compel the reader to continue reading - that stand a chance of really grabbing a reader - the writer has to work out of a place of, let's say, familiarity and affection. The matrix of the story has to be made out of stuff the writer really knows about and likes. The writer can't be stretching and (purely) inventing all the time. Well, I can't, anyway.
    -- George Saunders

    #Reading #Work Out #Levels

  • Err in the direction of kindness.
    -- George Saunders

    #Kindness #Collaboration

  • Whatever you love, that will be an influence. It just will. So in effect the young writer's job is: go out and find some stuff to love.
    -- George Saunders

    #Jobs #Stuff #Influence

  • Anyone can be shamed, but feeling guilt requires empathy within.
    -- George Saunders

    #Empathy #Feelings #Guilt

  • Goodbye. I am leaving because I am bored.
    -- George Saunders

    #Goodbye #Crazy #Bored

  • It's funny with fiction - once you cut something, it hasn't happened anymore.
    -- George Saunders

    #Cutting #Fiction

  • The number of rooms in a fictional house should be inversely proportional to the years during which the couple living in that house enjoyed true happiness.
    -- George Saunders

    #Couple #Years #Numbers

  • To me, the process of writing is just reading what I've written and - like running your hand over one of those mod glass stovetops to find where the heat is - looking for where the energy is in the prose, then going in the direction of that. It's an exercise in being open to whatever is there.
    -- George Saunders

    #Running #Reading #Writing

  • So I may not have had a gothic childhood, but childhood makes its own gothicity.
    -- George Saunders

    #Childhood #May #Gothic

  • The writer has to make pleasure for the reader - which, I think, is done by taking one's character's seriously and taking one's readers seriously -don't condescend or try to be tricky. Be a friend to your reader - I'd say that's a pretty good first step.
    -- George Saunders

    #Character #Thinking #Trying

  • Since, according to me, your life is going to be a gradual process of becoming kinder and more loving: Hurry up. Speed it along. Start right now. There's a confusion in each of us, a sickness, really:selfishness. But there's also a cure. So be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf - seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life.
    -- George Saunders

    #Medicine #Confusion #Advice

  • In my work, and in my psyche, there's some very sentimental, traditional, conventional side that's always in argument with a more radical, sarcastic side. Some of my stories are really sentimental, but they're layered over with weird, satirical stuff.
    -- George Saunders

    #Sarcastic #Stories #Stuff

  • Life is short, very short, and what are we doing here if not trying to become more generous and loving?
    -- George Saunders

    #Life Is Short #Trying #Life Is

  • On one level, I am a total softie, sort of depressed and afraid of losing the people I love or failing them. To disguise that, there's all this harsh, poop-centric, external swagger, full of nastiness. I'm a cloaking device.
    -- George Saunders

    #People #Poop #Nastiness

  • Character is that sum total of moments we can't explain.
    -- George Saunders

    #Character #Moments

  • It really strikes me how much of your energy in America, especially if you're from a working back-ground, is spent just keeping your head above water. It really saps your grace and your strength.
    -- George Saunders

    #America #Water #Grace

  • Kindness, it turns out, is hard - it starts out all rainbows and puppy dogs, and expands to include . . . well, EVERYTHING.
    -- George Saunders

    #Dog #Kindness #Rainbow

  • I think it was a big revelation to me earlier in my life that people who appear to be evil are actually not. In other words, nobody wakes up in the morning and says, "Yuck, yuck, yuck, I'm gonna be evil."
    -- George Saunders

    #Morning #Thinking #People

  • ...smile first, then speak.
    -- George Saunders

    #Firsts #Speak

  • I think the trick of being a writer is to basically put your cards out there all the time and be willing to be as in the dark about what happens next as your reader would be at that time.
    -- George Saunders

    #Dark #Thinking #Would Be

  • It's a big world, and I really like it.
    -- George Saunders

    #World #Bigs

  • If a writer understands his work as something that originates with him but then, with any luck, gets away from him, then what he needs is someone who can grasp the potential of the piece and lead him to that higher ground.
    -- George Saunders

    #Luck #Needs #Pieces

  • Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial.
    -- George Saunders

    #Bigs

  • I feel that there is nothing that can happen to a person that is banal. Everything that happens to us is interesting.
    -- George Saunders

    #Interesting #Feels #Persons

  • The contours of the coming disaster expanded to include the deaths of all present.
    -- George Saunders

    #Disaster

  • I've always wanted to write energetic, atypical sentences, i.e., sentences that were not normal or bland.
    -- George Saunders

    #Writing #Normal #Energetic

  • What America is, to me, is a guy doesn't want to buy, you let him not buy, you respect his not buying. A guy has a crazy notion different from your crazy notion, you pat him on the back and say, Hey pal, nice crazy notion, let's go have a beer. America, to me, should be shouting all the time, a bunch of shouting voices, most of them wrong, some of them nuts, but please, not just one droning glamorous reasonable voice.
    -- George Saunders

    #Nice #Crazy #Beer

  • I'm not sure I would call it agony but there is a kind of cyclic frustration. You get one story right and then here comes another one. When does that end? What I'm trying to do is get it to end right now, by recognizing that that cycle is writing. That is: trying to understand the frustrations and setbacks (and agony) as part of a bigger chess game you are playing with art itself.
    -- George Saunders

    #Art #Writing #Frustration

  • According to me, your life is going to be a gradual process of becoming kinder and more loving. Hurry up. Speed it along. Start right now.
    -- George Saunders

    #Graduation #Becoming #Life Is

  • It's a little like packing for a trip. First you lay out everything that might possibly be useful, with no thought about the size of your suitcase. Then, look at your suitcase. In the case of narrative, there's a certain obligation to keep the pace up and have each section or subsection be doing something.
    -- George Saunders

    #Size #Looks #Pace

  • When you read a short story, you come out a little more aware and a little more in love with the world around you. What I want is to have the reader come out just 6 percent more awake to the world.
    -- George Saunders

    #Stories #World #Want

  • The generalizing writer is like the passionate drunk, stumbling into your house mumbling: I know I'm not being clear, exactly, but don't you kind of feel what I'm feeling?
    -- George Saunders

    #Drunk #House #Feelings

  • It seems to me that there are certain thoughts and vignettes and attitudes that I have always had the desire to represent.
    -- George Saunders

    #Attitude #Desire #Vignettes

  • Humor is what happens when we're told the truth quicker and more directly than we're used to.
    -- George Saunders

    #Writing #Used

  • I have finally realized that, you know, it's not a given that my lifespan will accommodate my writing aspirations.
    -- George Saunders

    #Writing #Given #Aspiration

  • It seems to me a worthy goal: try to create a representation of consciousness that's durable and truthful, i.e., that accounts, somewhat, for all the strange, tiny, hard-to-articulate, instantaneous, unwilled things that actually go on in our minds in the course of a given day, or even a given moment.
    -- George Saunders

    #Goal #Mind #Trying

  • It is technically very hard to show positive manifestations. But I can look back at the way I thought and felt even as a little kid and there was a lot of wonder there, and openness to the many sides of life.
    -- George Saunders

    #Kids #Looks #Littles

  • There's also a way that you have of being precise but also allusive, that works well for me - it's something about the open-hearted way you frame your queries. Instead of feeling daunted or discouraged, I feel excited to give whatever it is a try. This takes a lot of editorial wisdom and confidence - to know just how to get the writer to take that extra chance.
    -- George Saunders

    #Giving #Feelings #Trying

  • Fiction is open to whoever comes in the door, as long as you come in energetically.
    -- George Saunders

    #Doors #Long #Fiction

  • Realism is to fiction what gravity is to walking: a confinement that allows dancing under the right circumstances.
    -- George Saunders

    #Dancing #Fiction #Gravity

  • I grew up in Chicago on the South Side, and had a ton of freedom, just did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. At the risk of sounding dopey, I would say it was blissful.
    -- George Saunders

    #Risk #Chicago #Sides

  • Whenever you talk about writing I think you have to remember that it all has a big question mark over it - every word has a big question mark over it.
    -- George Saunders

    #Writing #Thinking #Remember

  • I'm comfortable with anything after the fact.
    -- George Saunders

    #Facts

  • I haven't written a novel or something that long, because I really am improvising all along and the story is growing new limbs to do what it needs to do. So there's very little planning. There's a little planning where I say, "Well, it looks like I'm going in this direction, ok, good." But there's very little forethought or intellectual justification: "Oh, look, I'm putting in a theme park because that represents dystopian America!"
    -- George Saunders

    #America #Long #Intellectual

  • I love the feeling of being on the hunt - the feeling that the story is refusing to be solved in some lesser way and is insisting that you see it on its highest terms.
    -- George Saunders

    #Feelings #Stories #Way

  • My idea about collections is that you write as hard as you can for some period and what you're really doing during that time is hyper-focusing on the individual pieces - trying to make each one sit up and really do some surprising work.
    -- George Saunders

    #Writing #Ideas #Trying

  • In a sense my whole life as a writer is trying to find structural ways, or formal ways, to permit that outflowing so it doesn't just look like crazy output. In other words, if it turns out that you can do a given voice, that's just kind of inclination. But then if you can find a way to put that voice in a story so that the voice serves a purpose, then I would say that's being a writer.
    -- George Saunders

    #Crazy #Voice #Trying

  • Every writer knows that when you're imitating somebody - you know, you're sounding like Faulkner - you're doing pretty good, but your life in Hoboken isn't Faulkneresque.
    -- George Saunders

    #Hoboken

  • I read Rand and thought, "I want to be one of the earth movers, the scientific people who power the world. I don't want to be one of these lisping liberal artsy leeches." So I was working against my actual abilities.
    -- George Saunders

    #People #Leeches #World

  • If I'm writing a story and you're reading it, or vice versa, you took time out of your day to pick up my book. I think the one thing that will kill that relationship is if you feel me condescending to you in the process.
    -- George Saunders

    #Reading #Book #Writing

  • I don't use the word lightly, in fact, I don't use it at all, but Ben Marcus is a genius, one of the most daring, funny, morally engaged and brilliant writers, someone whose work truly makes a difference in the world. His prose is, for me, awareness objectified-he makes the word new and thus the world.
    -- George Saunders

    #Differences #Making A Difference #Genius