This loving profile of George Saunders is just gorgeous.
At the risk of hyperbole at the end of a story that began in a state of fairly high exaltation, I would say that this is precisely the effect that Saunders’s fiction has on you. It “softens the borders,” as he put it in one of our conversations. “Between you and me, between me and me, between the reader and the writer.” It makes you wiser, better, more disciplined in your openness to the experience of other people. The guy talking on the bus about how his girlfriend doesn’t appreciate his music and why couldn’t she just cut him that much slack, seeing how he just did all that time? The couple in the basement of the Port Authority, the wife helping her husband get into his Grover costume before he stepped out onto 42nd Street. The woman, one recent morning, who screamed at panhandlers on the subway that it was the day after Christmas and why couldn’t they just give us all some peace? “Peace on Earth,” she hollered. “Is that so much to ask for? Get off the train.” She went on for a while, and some other passengers started to turn on her. “I’m right!” she yelled. “I’m right.” And then her face took on the saddest expression.
It’s hard to maintain, the softness. It’s an effort. That Dubai story ends with these lines, wisdom imparted from Saunders to himself: “Don’t be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end, amen.”
It's safe to say the modern fiction writers who've most captivated me ever since I developed a passion for short stories in college are Tobias Wolff, George Saunders, Alice Munro, and Raymond Carver.