• George Saunders Interview

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in WBN News & Events     Comments 12 comments

    Tenth of DecemberWhen George Saunders was in Austin in late January I got the chance to sit down with him over brunch and ask him a whole lot of inane questions. I had reviewed his story collection Tenth of December for the Dallas Morning News, and my editor there asked for a follow-up piece in advance of Saunders’ Dallas reading, which happens this Friday. (Sold out.)

    A short version of the interview appeared in this morning’s edition of the paper, and online under the title “George Saunders on inspiration and his Texas dance hall days.”

    Now for you hardcore Saunders fans, the full transcript of the interview is up on the newspaper’s arts blog (at ~6,000 words). What they didn’t publish over there were the first few lines, where I sound like a natural-born idiot. See, Saunders and I chatted for a good 15 minutes before I remembered to turn on my digital recorder, and then his food came–about 13 minutes before mine because I managed to piss off the waiter, which didn’t stop me from thanking the waiter for bringing Saunders’ food. It was all very awkward:


    DD: I’ve had interviews that I’ve done on speakerphone, and put the phone next to this guy [the digital recorder] and the interview will get totally chewed up, I can’t hear it … and I’ve done it more than once, which is ridiculous.

    [Saunders and I both laugh at me]

    GS: Well I’ve got one of those little ones, it’s not a full cassette but it’s a small cassette, and it’s just that reassuring thing where you can look at it and see that it’s turning, you know?

    DD: [Painfully awkward pause while I try to get my shit together] Umm, all right, So we already talked a bit about Amarillo—

    ASSHOLE WAITER: One egg, bacon, and silverware.

    DD: Thank you. [N.B. It’s not my food] Look at the size of that toast. [Painfully awkward pause #2 while we both deal with my toast exclamation.] So, you were born in Amarillo but you moved away when you were very young.


    You can find the rest of the interview here.

    And if any of you have a fun story to share about a time you felt like an idiot in front of someone you admire, now would be a good time to share it in the comments section below.


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    Laura Roberts

    I don’t think I have any funny stories about trying to impress someone I admire. Sadly, most of my embarrassing stories involve me making a doofus of myself around *normal* people, so I tend to just keep quiet when in the presence of greatness, to avoid any fatal faux pas. However, I did recently read this funny story my D.C. McMillen about her failed attempts to look smart in front of David Sedaris: http://dcmcmillen.com/2013/04/13/my-failed-attempts-to-look-smart-in-front-of-david-sedaris/


    Yeah, I do tend to make an idiot out of myself in front of the presence of greatness. Also in the presence of the mediocre but I don’t remember those instances as much. Maybe I will get a third chance to redeem myself with David Sedaris one of these days. Sigh.

    Martin Barkley

    Sure, why not? I’ll contribute to the Awkward-Dumbass-Moment-in-Front-of-Greatness Club. I go to see this author–whose initials are D.G.–speak at the Texas Book Festival. After the lecture I go to his book signing; it’s not crowded, no one else is there, and my literary hero is unoccupied, free to talk to me about mastery of the short story form. So I approach him and call him by his first name, but not just his first name, a diminutive of his first name, which would be endearing coming from a friend. But I’m not a friend; at best, I’m an aficionado (maybe),… Read more »

    David Duhr

    I love knowing who you’re talking about and being able to picture this wonderful moment. Bless you. Someday someone will be telling a similar story, but instead of “D—–” or “Ernie” it’ll be “Marty.”

    Carrie Winters

    I went to see one of my favorite authors read at an event in Miami. After the reading I waited in line to have my book signed. Most of the people, if not all, in line were holding hardcover copies of her new book. I had a tattered, dog-eared, marked-up ARC (i.e., free copy!) of her previous book. I handed it to her to sign and she was like “Oh.” And I said, “Yeah.” Not “It’s a sentimental favorite,” not “I absolutely love this book and to me it represents my love for you as a writer,” not “I also… Read more »

    David Duhr

    At the end of this interview with Saunders I asked him to sign my book … a tattered galley. Right there with you. I felt silly, but what the hell, I felt silly the whole time. What’s one more moment of it?

    David Duhr

    For some extra and related fun, (re)visit Justine’s post, “My Top 5 Most Embarrassing (Un)Professional Moments”: https://www.writebynight.net/writing-help/my-top-5-most-embarrassing-unprofessional-moments/

    Martin Barkley

    Well done and brave, Justine.

    Justine Tal Goldberg

    Thank you, Martin. FYI, I just reread that post and now I’m blushing. It never gets easier, does it?

    Martin Barkley

    Empathy makes us better fiction writers. Without it, we’re just garden-variety liars.

    Martin Barkley

    Just think how much empathy we’ll feel when David dons that pink onesie. (God, I love that phrase: “pink onesie.”) Now that’s the kind of honesty and vulnerability I admire.

    Justine Tal Goldberg

    Once I ran and hid from Paul Auster because I was too nervous to meet him. I take solace in the fact that this man doesn’t know I’m alive.

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