SU’s Saunders garners more honors from leading literary organizations
SU’s Saunders garners more honors from leading literary organizationsFebruary 27, 2007Sara Millersemortim@syr.edu
George Saunders G’88, professor of English in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), has recently been recognized with several prestigious literary honors, on the heels of his being named one of 25 MacArthur Fellows by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation last September.
Saunders’ “In Persuasion Nation” (Riverhead Books, 2006) was named one of the three finalists for The Story Prize, an annual award for books of short fiction. The 12 stories in this collection range from “straightforward narratives to outlandish tales populated by talking snack bars and vengeful Doritos bags.” As one of three finalists, Saunders received $5000 at the awards ceremony Feb. 28 at The New School’s Tishman Auditorium in New York City. The finalists each read selections from their work, after which each writer was interviewed onstage.
“In Persuasion Nation” was also selected by Booklist as an Editors’ Choice, which recognizes the most outstanding titles published in 2006. It also made Amazon’s list of Top 10 Literary Books for the year.
This past fall, Saunders’ short fiction work “CommComm” (The New Yorker, 2005) was named a winner at the World Fantasy Awards, which were announced at the World Fantasy Convention Banquet Nov. 4 in Austin, Texas. All nominated material was published in 2005. The World Fantasy Convention is an annual gathering of professionals, collectors and others interested in the field of light and dark fantasy art and literature.
In addition to the MacArthur Fellowship, Saunders was named a 2006 Guggenheim Fellow this past April. He teaches in SU’s M.F.A. program in creative writing. In addition to “In Persuasion Nation,” Saunders has published two collections of short stories — “Pastoralia” (Riverhead Books, 2000) and “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline” (Riverhead Books, 1996) — as well as an illustrated novella, “The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil” (Penguin Books, 2005), and a children’s book, “The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip” (Random House, 2000).
Saunders’ mordantly hilarious tales retain, at their core, deep sympathy and compassion for the lives he depicts. Characterized by a blend of contrasting elements, much of his fantastic and fanciful writings combine satire and surrealism with a naturalistic, colloquial use of language. With a keen eye for absurdity, a precise ear for vernacular dialogue and a distinctively deadpan narrative voice, Saunders explores the poignant disappointments of his downtrodden characters and the slightly skewed, vaguely futuristic version of American society they inhabit. While his stories are humorous, the moral dilemmas faced by his fictional mothers, husbands, siblings and neighbors underscore their humanity and lend gravity to his work.
His fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Esquire and numerous other publications. He won the National Magazine Award in 1994 for his story “The 400-pound CEO” and again in 1996 for the story “Bounty.” He was named one of Entertainment Weekly’s top 100 most creative people in entertainment (2001) and one of The New Yorker’s best writers 40 and under (2000).
Prior to joining the SU faculty in 1997, Saunders was a technical writer and geophysical engineer at Radian International in Rochester, N.Y. He has also explored for oil in Sumatra, played guitar in a Texas bar band, and worked in a slaughterhouse.
Saunders earned a B.Sc. degree at the Colorado School of Mines in 1981 and an M.F.A. degree in creative writing at SU in 1988.