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Butler University Visiting Writers Series: George Saunders

If George Saunders was in charge of the economic redevelopment of the United States, we’d probably see a marked increase in very bizarre jobs. There’d be a rise in Civil War themed theme parks, mascot costumes would replace suits and ties, “wavemaker” would be a position in high demand, and, really, nobody would get anything done. Saunders, a former geophysical engineer, is in the habit of writing pithy short stories full of strange situations, offbeat characters you can’t help but recognize yourself in, and, yes, odd jobs. Despite his stories’ quick wit and unorthodox sense of humor, Saunders has a knack for getting under his readers’ skin and making them react to his stories in a wholly un-funny way. George Saunders will be coming to Indianapolis on Tuesday, February 8, 2011 as part of the Butler University Visiting Writers Series, where he’ll be joining the ranks of past speakers at the Indianapolis school like Jonathan Lethem, Michael Dahlie, and Junot Diaz.

Video of George Saunders reading an excerpt from Pastoralia; George Saunders will be speaking as part of the Butler University Visiting Writers Series in Indianapolis

 

Though George Saunders has not yet written a novel (the closest he’s come is his 2005 novella, The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil), but his collections of short stories have routinely made the New York Times Bestseller List, and the stories in them have won O’Henry Prizes, National Magazine Awards, and more. Raised fairly close to Indy (on the south side of Chicago, not far geographically, but pretty far in reality), Saunders received his bachelor’s degree in Geophysical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines in 1981.

Video of George Saunders’ appearance on the David Letterman Show; George Saunders will be speaking as part of the Butler University Visiting Writers Series in Indianapolis

 

A host of odd jobs preceded his career in fiction, including stints as a knuckle puller in a slaughterhouse, a doorman, a convenience store clerk, and even a roofer. The odd jobs are par for the course, but the Geophysical Engineering aspect is kind of a strange background for a writer; Saunders has likened his approach to fiction to what would happen “…if you put a welder to designing dresses.” The result is the highly unorthodox slices of life that Saunders presents in his short stories.

Video of George Saunders reading an excerpt from his short story, “Bohemians;” George Saunders will be speaking as part of the Butler University Visiting Writers Series in Indianapolis

 

After reading an article in People about the masters program in fiction at Syracuse University, George Saunders decided to attend the school. He earned his M.A. in creative writing from Syracuse in 1988; he teaches creative writing in Syracuse’s graduate program today, a post he’s held since 1997. Saunders’ debut short story collection, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, was released in 1996 and included the winning story of the 1995 National Magazine Award for Fiction, “Bounty.” CivilWarLand in Bad Decline earned Saunders national attention and made him a finalist for the 1996 PEN/Hemingway Award; the collection is said to be under production as a Ben Stiller film. His next collection, 2000’s Pastoralia, featured no less than four O’Henry Prize winning stories, and his 2000 children’s book, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, was a New York Times bestseller.

Video of George Saunders discussing his non-fiction book, The Braindead Megaphone, at an Authors@Google event; George Saunders will be speaking as part of the Butler University Visiting Writers Series in Indianapolis

 

George Saunders‘ latest book, 2006’s In Persuasion Nation, wasn’t as highly acclaimed as his earlier work, but 2006 was still a pretty good year for the writer. He earned a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship that year (commonly called the “genius grant), worth $500,000, in addition to a Guggenheim Fellowship. If that’s not enough to convince you to check out George Saunders on February 8, 2011, come for his consistently ridiculous sense of humor and the biting social commentary that brings consumerism and capitalism down a peg or two. George Saunders will be speaking as part of the Butler University Visiting Writers Series on Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. in the Atherton Union Reilly Room. This Indianapolis event is absolutely free, so there’s no reason not to get some new ideas about your next career path.

Butler University Visiting Writers Series Presents George Saunders
Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: FREE
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Butler University
4600 Sunset Ave
Indianapolis, IN 46208
317.940.6570
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