George Saunders is amazing!
Ok, let’s back up. Jason and I went to see George Saunders speak about his new book, Lincoln in the Bardo, at the Parkway Theater in Minneapolis last Wednesday. The event was hosted by Rain Taxi (check them out because they are amazing) and was more than I hoped it would be.
It’s funny because I wasn’t super familiar with Saunders until I heard of Lincoln in the Bardo earlier this year. Jason (my husband, a writer, and general writing aficionado) is quite familiar with his work, particularly his short stories. When I mentioned wanting to attend this reading and book discussion, I didn’t have to ask twice!
We live about 40 minutes outside of Minneapolis, so after I got home from work Jason and I drove into the city and enjoyed dinner at Town Hall Tap before the event. Note: Town Hall Tap was amazing – it was packed, but there were a variety of beers on tap and our dinner was incredible. I had the Rachel (a spin on the Ruben), and it was in my top sandwiches I’ve ever had. I would go back in a heartbeat!
George Saunders and Lincoln in the Bardo
I had never been to the Parkway Theater before, but it was smaller than I expected (at least for an event with George Saunders). But its coziness led to the feeling of the event. Eric Loberer, Rain Taxi’s editor, led off the event with some words about Saunders. Saunders then began, talking about his journey of writing what we now know as Lincoln in the Bardo. Did you know it took him 20+ years to write this bad boy? Wow.
His opening was followed by a reading. Until last week, I wasn’t familiar with the formatting of the book. I knew it is centered on Abraham Lincoln grappling and dealing with his son’s death. I knew there were ghosts. But I didn’t realize the book is written in a semi-theater/play format. Regardless, the reading was great. Rain Taxi arranged for local talent to play various characters, which added a richness to the reading. I haven’t read Lincoln in the Bardo yet, but I’m excited to dig into it.
The reading was followed by a discussion. Full disclosure: this led to me being infatuated with George Saunders and wanting to read everything he has ever written #notastalker Seriously though, he is so engaging. I always have the fear that writers won’t be as engaging in person as they are in their writing, but this definitely wasn’t the case. Saunders is reflective and funny and engaging and honestly, I could have listened to him talk for hours longer than we had. He’s dedicated to his wife, he is a writer that works hard and often, and he has a humor that makes him seem not so — untouchable.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a literary event and I’m so glad that we left our comfort zone for a fun evening. Hearing Saunders speak reminded me about why I love books so much – they aren’t necessarily a story alone on an island, but rather a piece of work that’s representative of the writer who put time, sweat, and love into its final piece.
Have you ever been to an event with an author? What were your thoughts?