George Saunders Is Everywhere

So I’m walking down South Crouse Avenue after picking up Chipotle takeout after work tonight. It’s raining and I’m holding the brown paper bag up to my chest so it’s shielded under the cover of my black umbrella. I take note of the dainty handle and hope I don’t appear effeminate to the motorists passing by me.

As I turn the bag around, I get a surprise. A flash fiction story from short story writer George Saunders is printed on the back. It’s part of Chipotle’s “Cultivating Thought Author Series.”

As I walk down the hill with the rain pelting me, I try to read George’s Two-Minute Note to the Future (a letter to “future reader”) before the bag turns to pulp in my hands.

You can read the story here.

And I can’t help but think that George Saunders is everywhere. I say this because 1) I’m currently reading The Braindead Megaphone, Saunders’ 2007 book of essays; 2) yesterday I read The New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog featuring an interview with Saunders about his sense of humor; and 3) our video department at Syracuse University recently produced The Book of Saunders, a half-hour documentary about George that premiered in May on WCNY public television in Syracuse.

Saunders’ latest book, Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness (Random House, 2014), was inspired by his 2013 convocation address to the graduates of SU’s College of Arts and Sciences.

And I can testify to the fact that kindness is not an act for Saunders, who has been called the Chekhov-Twain-Vonnegut (insert other famous author here) of our time. In person George is nice and genuine (with an “everyman” quality), and his humility almost makes you forget about his razor-sharp intellect and literary prowess.

Here he takes time to pose for a picture with a fan/production grip (me) just outside his writing shed in upstate New York.

Photo by Stu Lisson

Photo by Stu Lisson

And after I eat my Chipotle chicken bowl I debate whether to toss the bag in the trash. I feel guilty about it, since a fiction gem from George shouldn’t be thrown out—banished to the bottom of my kitchen garbage can; it deserves a better fate than mingling with apple cores and coffee grounds.

But then I think George wouldn’t mind, and I’m sure I’ll read something else by/about him tomorrow.