Every once in a while, I read a piece of writing, or look at a piece of art, or listen to a song that leaves me feeling completely and utterly dumbfounded. This past winter, it was the novel Lincoln in the Bardo, written by the incredibly talented George Saunders. The book, which centers around the death of Abraham Lincoln's beloved son Willie and the struggles that both father and son must endure in the wake of that tragic event, is both brilliant and beautiful. I remember reading the last page, closing the book, and staring at the dust jacket for the next thirty minutes, in awe of Saunders ability to craft a story that manages to be moving, strange, and philosophical all at once.
But that's what Saunders does so well. He understands the cruelty and helplessness of American life, of human life, and he doesn't shy away from it. Whether he's writing about Trump voters in the New Yorker or a dystopian short story about using human beings as garden ornaments, he's able to combine biting social commentary and compassion like no one else. His humor is dark, his satire is sharp, but he never loses his empathy.
If you haven't read any of George's books, I hope my fangirl ravings will inspire you to delve deeper into his amazing body of work. He is extremely prolific, so you have a lot to choose from! There are four short story collections, a novella, a novel, an essay collection, a children's book, and one kick-ass commencement speech on kindness that was so beloved it was turned into a book! If all these choices have you feeling overwhelmed, you can start with the story that first introduced me to George's work back in 2009. The story, titled "Jon," is about a nightmarish focus group, one is which the trendsetters and tastemakers are never allowed to leave. You can read it, right here. To learn more about George, and his work, you can visit his website. You can also follow him on Facebook.
A HUGE thank you to George for sharing his inspirations with us today! Scroll down to read more! ~Erin
Have been listening to Amanda Shires and Jason Isbell a lot and with great pleasure recently and would recommend "Harmless" by Amanda and "Speedtrap Town" by Jason as introductions to their work. But you can start just about anywhere and be thrilled and amazed.
I loved Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi. It is like a knife, cutting into lazy or satisfied ideas about racism, the great white American sickness.
I was blown away by the recent James Baldwin documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, and have been revisiting some of his essays. What an astonishing mind: so clear, so truthful.