George Saunders has won the Booker Prize, and he’s the recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant. He won the Folio Prize for his collection of short stories, Tenth of December, which includes the short story “Victory Lap.” In this episode, Susan and George talk about a passage from “Victory Lap.”
“Victory Lap” is about two teenagers, Alison and Kyle, and what happens when a stranger tries to abduct Alison. In his conversation with Susan, George discusses a passage from the light-hearted opening of the story, before it takes its darker turn.
For more, visit bookexploder.com/episodes/george-saunders.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Are you listening to book explode her where others breakdown of passage from their work, to shows how they re I'm russification? Airway pen, I'm susan or lean books,
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I can use the time I'm spending walking or driving to do one of my favorite things which has taken a new book, including.
george saunders collection of short stories tenth of december, lad, audible, help
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the author, George Saunders, George Saunders, is one the book surprise and he's the recipient of macarthur genius great. He won the folio prize for his collection of short stories tenth of december, which includes the short story. Victory
in this episode, Susan and george, talk about a passage from victory, lab
do you remember when you first read, George Saunders, I would say in red,
George Saunders, for the first time is like taking lsd for the first time
Things are familiar, and yet they become
very strange and unrecognizable in a way. That's completely engaging nobody rights like george
saunders. Probably no one on the planet thinks, like George saunders, ok, here's susan's interview with george Saunders. So if you can
identify where this story came from. Did it explode
out of an image of phrase?
yeah actually came out of a sense of inadequacy because my word tend to be pretty dark.
and so I was at a point where I'm like me fifty or something and thinking. Why can I do anything uplifting and lovely you know and I'd rather a check of steroid, called after the ball or after the odd person like that, but it's basically just a a little girl young teenage girl who comes home from her first social event and she's in her room kind of bouncing around thinking about these different things that happen, and it's just a beautiful little perfect story in which really nothing happens, except it feels like it has. So I thought, okay, what I just challenge myself to try to write something as sweet as that. So I started writing this kind of stream of consciousness piece from the point of view of this girl
that's really were started, which is that, in what I tend to do is make something like that, just for fun, with no ulterior motive and then start tuning it I'm a real, obsessive, revise, or so I start cutting it, trying to make the jokes a little better, trying to make one thing led to the next in a natural way, and as you do that it starts to refine itself into something with a little more of a dramatic art. I guess: can you give us.
idea of what the story is about? Basically, is just a story about a young girl who's in her house. She, a a would be ballet, dancer and she's kind of bombing around waiting for her mom to pick her up having a laugh,
Thoughts then there's an attempted abduction, basically not to spoil our words and then now, there's no
the boy next door, who is the same age as her and you know together. We hope that they can thwart this abduction attempt, that's basically in a nutshell, an uplifting. You know very uplifting. You know one thing about this story: is it's so dependent on voice? People were amazing.
most was dad was awesome. Her teachers were so hard and had kids are the wrong and some were even getting divorced, such as mrs these, but still always took time for their students.
Which found especially inspiring about mrs these was that, even though MR deeds was cheating on mrs these with a lady who ran the bowling alley. Mrs Louise was still taking the best course ever
tax posing such questions, as can goodness win or do good people always get shafted
Many years ago I had the pleasure of hearing, you
Read this story, and when I heard you read it, I almost
couldn't imagine it on the page it felt like it was meant always to be performed in their struggle. She had voted for people being good life being fun with mrs. These giving
her a pitying glance ass. She stated her views, which were to do good. You just have to decide to do good. You have to be brave, you have to stand up for. What's right is so when you're writing, do you composer,
loud and fine tune the voice, literally as a voice, or do something close to that, and it has to do with the fact that, as a kid, some of the first moments of artistic power ever had were in school. Making jokes, you know imitating a teacher or imitating a neighbor sort of improv. That depends a lot on and having a
character and then making character real that still something that really comes alive. For me and your exactly right, this peace came entirely from that impulse, first to try to figure out what she sounded like and then there's something in the overflow more that I go into one only do it improv well. For me, it's really good, because I tend to over think things, but when you're ripping like this, your subconscious is really there
What will end up doing kind of crazy stuff that can't be planned? So here you know when she says to do good. You just have to decide to do good. You have to be brave. You have to stand up for what's right, that was me
Sixteen for sure I I was kind of and in rand guy, in just a control. For again my thought was all these adults in the world. Who are you know depressed and divorced and alcoholic or are they just want trying
arc enough? You know they didn't understand, goodness like I did, and that you know how sometimes we've got pros. Part of it is just warmer than other parts. It's like if you had to make a graph of power at certain parts of the textus peak a little bit, and I always liked that bit. So she is kind of a throwdown where she says here's my claim.
To do. Verde just have to do good and I imagine story being a little sweet. Like really do you really believe at all? Don't think that because then I'm going to have to challenge you, you know right when you were writing a teenage girl and having been a teenage girl myself, I can say this felt so deeply authentic, but seriously his life foreigner, scary, people, good or bad.
it just feel right. As you were, writing it. I mean ash. I think there was an early draft where I was trying to think how a teenage girl think and it didn't work. So I said forget it: how did you think when you were sixteen and it was totally natural and I think part of its very powerful, because what it says is there really is such a such a campaign? Trail crochet, but the really is more that than separates us. So if I say alright, I'm an imagine being a ninety five year old,
former prison guard. My working theory is, I got him in me. I've got him in there somewhere in especially since fiction. Is you know it's it's a magic show you're you're, making an approximation of a ninety five year old, jail guard or a sixteen year old girl or whatever you're just
thing I can get close enough.
On the assumption that we're all fundamentally the same, and then you kind of decorate it with surface things like when I was sixteen. I was a big hockey fan and I'd sort of skate around the linoleum floor on my socks with a hockey stick. Well, I just swapped it out and put ballet in there, but I think basically set exciting assumption that, especially since a person really isn't in the ultimate sense, their gender or their age or their race or their sexual orientation,
and are there anything they're, just a soul, and we all have that. So I have a lot of confidence that we can get pretty close to another consciousness. Just like you, don't really chop the assistant in half on your magician, you just trying to make it look like you do, and I think that much we can do we'll be right back with more after this ooh. This episode is sponsored by audible.
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I'm just curious. Have you ever considered? I'm writing this interior monologue of a teenage girl. That would be just funny and end it there, and instead we sort of get pushed into a slightly uncomfortable place of the next chapter of the story. Yeah. I I kind of feel like with a story all of the talking in the moving around in the world description and the voice. Is there too
and of create what I think of as an under story in all she's waiting for a mom the pick her up. That's all that happens, but underneath it did
texas, saying, ah, you know I actually want to talk about something else. The text was basically telling me he wanted to be about that issue of you know how your need. Sixteen year old moral principles stand up against the big bad world to do good. You just have to decide to do good. You have to be brave. You have to stand up for what's right and of course that's also for those of us who aren't sixteen. We all make these neat conceptual models of the world,
but the world is always so much bigger than we can imagine that keeps biting us. It's interesting that a story that starts out really comic becomes a lot about morality and that's the magic trick to me: sort of seducing people into thinking, thoughts that are sometimes uncomfortable or seeing parts of the world that they didn't think they really wanted to see. That's where humor
feels like a wonderful, a handkerchief to wave and learn people en. Since I think, if I can overturn a park of somebody throws a freeze.
Be in the present, mrs in its coming for you. Should you catch it or not? Will get course why there's no reason for you to catch us too.
me, but you morpheus me that way like if it's there, it's a joyful thing to engage in it and as a death thing. If you don't, you know right
you can write a very funny story or a sad story or reflective story, but still kind of exploring that same bigger question of what is
morality, yeah? It's the only thing I ever wanted to do was stories. I don't any other matter
or have any interest in unlike
was an early steinbeck fan. I remember reading the grapes of wrath one summer when I was doing manual labor and adjust. I thought. Oh, that's really. What literature is it's a way of helping you through the day by making the day seem bigger? You know seemed
urged, so I think that's actually right and inform me I just found early. If I did, I sit down,
Got a pretty serious, really boring lease.
Curious reductive person inside me? If that person writes a story about morality, it doesnt prove anything. It's just it's a foregone conclusion with my stupid opinions in there
whereas I can figure out a way to leave that guy behind and do something wilder. Then what
as as the story writes itself into a space where I really don't know the answer. So it's fun and it's very surprising because, like in history story, I didn't want her to be abducted. I mean that seems like you know, boring, artistically, boring and also morally not fun, and I remember being stuck for awhile like okay. Is there any way? I can get you out of this, but you have to be willing to you know. Gert up
your loins. You might have to actually make this a much darker story than it already is you know the irony being that you started the story. Thinking you were going to write something
A little later angry in not having dark turn was that the fairy oconnor has a grating.
Can choose what your eyes, but he catches when he makes live or die. I found it
be so true. I have all kinds of aspirations to be a more sunshine inhabited right
or you know- and I know you know this feeling where you're, okay, you were working on some concept with some vision of a book, but the thing is like frankenstein dead on the slab. You know well, your whole job. Our whole job is to get that thing to sit up and start walking around and if death doesn't happen, nothing happens. All of your more
Why did you go down the toilet? I think of lava like if you, if you're in a show in your comic or something you know, was laughing no matter how well thought out: you're routine is or how well intentioned, if nobody's laughing you're finished, you know an infection
to be laughing, but unless the the story is up and walking around the room, it's all for not anyway, I think one of the strange phenomenon
The is you might start each step.
Rethinking I'm gonna do something different, but you are
always end up sounding like yourself, and so this takes it dark turn. Your came a knock on the door backdoor interesting. Who could it be followed dmitri from across the way you ps, fedex
with pity check, papa kadijah tehran, jam party very open door. End
here was a man she did not know. You must have a dark impulse.
In there somewhere that pushes a story that could be just absolutely flat out: hilarious, purely comic, and instead this has this kind of resonant theme of goodness verses. Immorality,
we write about this thing of you know you, you, David wall, said you in the end, you you always end up being yourself. I think for me. If I trace it backwards, it has to do something with. I don't think really, with a dark feeling about the world,
I don't feel that way, but I think it's a sort of an anxiety thing really and if I go to a party, I can pretty quickly list two things to make fun of an end. If I take a second
unless the things that are wonderful but my mind, first goes to the sarcastic. It's interesting. How
I can make you aware of those tendencies, and then you can say: okay, it s, actually a technical defects if there are positive and negative agencies and I'm over noticing the negative balances that my wanna be adjusted a little bit and actually revising your work is come away of, maybe
only guiding yourself to that like. I do think this is a very moral story and I think it says some things about bravery that I didn't know I knew, and to do that, I had to make some kind of weird looking puppets. You note to get to that point. I think that's
shelly why this story to me is deeply optimistic, been the sort of creative sense, which is that you can inhabit another consciousness and get in to a different brain and see what the world looks like
from that brain you. I think me when I read a great story, I was feeling. Oh, I didn't know, I could empathize with that person didn't know that I could feel for a person who is in me, but
I think actually there is a higher level, which is that exhilarated feeling you're talking about where you're feeling just to the beautiful surface, energy of the thing it actually just makes you feel something I'd say like more alive or more
air. That feeling is actually, I would say, ninety percent- of what you pay for
It has a moral part of fiction is that he now is that other state very brief, very transitory, but very undeniable. That's the thing we're trying to get,
and is actually the hardest thing to make habit, and I think it does have something to do with confusing yourself like this story was confusing to me and every time I read it, I'm confused by always imagine is being just funny and then you get up in front a crowd of people in riga, and you feel that turn when the doktor shows up there.
I don't get quiet and people start hating you a little bit, you know and they start like. You did not make me come out of my house and sit in this uncomfortable chair so that you could torment me with this thing. You know so it's tense, but even my discomfort in that moment is kind of what you're going for. I think, and now here's george saunders reading this passage from the short story, victory lap from
book tenth of December people were amazing. Mom was awesome, dad was awesome, her teeth
worked so hard and had kids are the wrong and some are even get
divorced such as mrs these, but still I took time for their students,
found especially inspiring about mrs. These was that, even though MR deeds was
cheating on mrs these with a lady who
the bowling alley? Mrs Jeez
still teaching the best course ever in ethics, posing
questions is kinda,
When do you good people always get shafted
evil being more reckless. That last bit
seem to be, mrs. These taken a shot at the bowling alley. Girl, but seriously is life, foreigner, scary, people, good or bad, on the one hand that clip of those-
garnish pale bodies being steamrollered while fat. German lady
Look I'm chewing gum on the other hand, sometimes world folks, even if their
particular farms run hills stayed up late, filling sandbags in their struggle. She had voted for people being good and life being fun with miss
these giving her a pitying glance ass? She stated her views, which were to do good. You just have to decide to do good. You have to be brave. You have to stand up for what's right.
that last mrs Louise had made this kind of grown, which is fine
this is these had a lot of pain in your life, yet, interestingly, still obviously found something funny about life and good about people, because otherwise
why sometimes they absolutely grading you come in the next day, all exhausted larsan backward having
I set up in the early morning dark you dear. This related thing here came and knock on the door backdoor. Interestingly interesting, who could it be father dmitri from across the way you ps, fedex with pity
papa, Kadijah tehran regime party, very open door in here with us
man, she did not know quite you'd.
Fell when those meter rear vast something called it a step back and slammed the door, but that's him to road.
Instead, she froze smile of did eyebrow raise indicate. May I help you
tenth of december is available in hardcover paperback and as an audiobook read by george Saunders himself, you can
let us add, book, explode or dot com for more information. This episode
look. Exploded was produced by Theo about Julia paterreros, Susan and myself are production assistant is very doubling
when we talk of how she created the book exploiter logo, our episode,
work, this bipolar jackson access- and I made the shows the music book exploiter. Isn't
member of radio toby of from pierre wrecks the network of independent listener, supported artist to find out more at radio topaz dat fm. I'm really.
a sure way. An
susan or lean thanks for listening
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Transcript generated on 2022-10-28.