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An Evening With George Saunders

Lincoln in the Bardo
In Conversation With Author Anthony Marra
Monday, February 27, 2017
Episode Summary

In his long-awaited first novel, American master George Saunders delivers his most original, transcendent, and moving work yet. Lincoln in the Bardo places the reader in a Georgetown cemetery on a rainy February night in 1862. From that seed of historical truth, the story spins into a metaphysical realm as a grief-stricken President Lincoln—one year into the Civil War—mourns the loss of his son Willie. Through a thrilling experimental form narrated by a chorus of voices, a blend of history and philosophy, a cast of characters living and dead, Saunders grapples with the timeless question: How can we continue to love when everything we love must eventually be lost? Following a dramatic reading from the book by Phil LaMarr, Saunders takes the stage to discuss this astonishing feat of imagination with award-winning author Anthony Marra, known for his transcending stories of love and war.

Participant(s) Bio

George Saunders is the author of nine books, including the New York Times bestsellers Congratulations, by the way and Tenth of December, the essay collection The Braindead Megaphone, and the critically acclaimed short story collections CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, Pastoralia, and In Persuasion Nation. He regularly writes short stories for The New Yorker and travel pieces for GQ, and his work has appeared in the O’Henry, “Best American Short Story,” “Best Non-Required Reading,” “Best American Travel Writing,” and “Best Science Fiction” anthologies. He’s made special appearances on The Charlie Rose Show, Late Night with David Letterman, and The Colbert Report. Saunders has received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Guggenheim Foundation and, in 2006, was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. In 2013, he was awarded the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction and was included in Time’s list of the one hundred most influential people in the world. Michiko Kakutani wrote in The New York Times, “No one writes more powerfully than George Saunders,” and Zadie Smith wrote of his work, “Not since Twain has America produced a satirist this funny.” Saunders has taught in the Creative Writing Program at Syracuse University since 1996, and he lives in the Catskills. Lincoln in the Bardo is Saunders’ long-awaited first novel.

Anthony Marra is the bestselling author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, winner of the National Book Critics Circle’s inaugural John Leonard Prize. This debut novel about the transcendent power of love in wartime was hailed by The New York Times as “brilliant” and topped many “best books” lists of 2013, including New York Magazine, Chicago Tribune, NPR, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Kirkus Reviews, and Publisher’s Weekly, among many others. Marra’s latest work, The Tsar of Love and Techno, is a collection of lyrical interwoven stories about family, sacrifice, the legacy of war, and the redemptive power of art. This collection was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction. Novelist Francine Prose wrote of Marra’s stories, “Reading his work is like watching the restoration—the reappearance, on the page—of those whom history has erased.” His work has been honored with the National Magazine Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and the Guggenheim Fellowship, among others. He teaches at Stanford University as the Jones Lecturer in Fiction. He has lived and studied in Eastern Europe and now resides in Oakland, California.

Phil LaMarr was one of the original cast members of Mad TV and an alumnus of Yale University and The Groundlings Theater. He is known for his work in Pulp Fiction and for his extensive voice-over work, including animated shows Futurama, Samurai Jack, Justice League, Family Guy and Bojack Horseman, and video games like Injustice, Shadow of Mordor and Mortal Kombat X. He can currently be seen in this season of HBO’s Veep and in The Black Version improv comedy show monthly at Largo At The Coronet.