Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 8
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Acclaimed writer George Saunders visits campus

Whitman’s Visiting Writers Reading Series welcomes its seventh and final speaker for the year to campus on Thursday, April 26. New York Times bestselling author and columnist George Saunders will share his work for the ultimate reading, after a slight setback and postponement from last month.

Currently a professor of creative writing at Syracuse University, Saunders has branched into many forms of writing, including journalism, essays and children’s books. However, his most acclaimed works are his award-winning short stories.

Humor and playfulness are among the favored devices of Saunders, who described himself as a “Twain with less wit.” The author expressed his hope that students would leave the lecture with a heightened appreciation for language and modern literature.

“I feel that writing is the best way one human being has of communicating with another––across time, across space, across all sorts of ethnic/national/political boundaries,” said Saunders in an email. “What I hope the students do NOT take away from my visit is my wallet. That happened a few months ago, at a ‘prestigious Ivy League college,’ and I am still getting all sorts of charges for, you know, volumes of Shakespeare, and kegs, and so on.”

For students interested in pursuing creative writing after college, the author, who cites Gogol, Tolstoy, Vonnegut, Isaac Babel and Monty Python as his inspirations, explicated his own draw towards the profession.

“I didn’t love doing anything as much as I loved reading and writing,” said Saunders. “Whenever I was in that realm, I felt confident and full of life. When writing, I am smarter than I am in real life, and more generous. In college I’d never met a writer, so wasn’t sure of how a person went about becoming one. When I get to Whitman I’ll tell the whole story of how I got that one figured out––but the main thing for a young writer is to read like crazy. That puts the sound of good writing in your brain.”

Students discussed their anticipation over Saunders’ impending visit.

“I really appreciate his creative ingenuity and quirky sense of humor,” said first-year Anna Stutz. “We’ve been reading and discussing “The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip” in my creative writing class, and I’m looking forward to seeing how his writing style in short stories differs from his children’s books.”

“I really look forward to hearing more about how his personal opinions on life affect his work and how he conveys politics or opinions as a writer,” said sophomore politics and media studies major Alyssa Goard. “I’m interested to see where his sense of playfulness comes from and what inspires an author like him.”

Goard further elaborated on her impressions of the series, which operates under the direction of Whitman’s Schwabacher Professor of English and Creative Writing Katrina Roberts.

“I love the Visiting Writers Series because it’s really enlivened my experience with the readings,” said Goard. “It’s also incredibly exciting to see an individual who has this complex story and a fascinating life and these vast personal experiences pouring all this thought and time into such a precise number of words. It makes the writing seem that much more impactful when I go back and read it again because I understand it in its broader context.”

The reading will take place on Thursday, April 26 at 7 p.m. in Maxey Auditorium.

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