It has been a few years since I last attended a Literary event, the last being in 2015 when I had the pleasure of seeing David Mitchell and Jonathan Lethem.
Sunday night, as mentioned in my previous post, I attended the Wheeler Centre event at Northcote Town Hall that featured American author George Saunders, acclaimed short story writer, and now novelist.
I’ve never actually been inside Northcote Town Hall before, despite living in the neighbourhood for over 30 years. A grand classical edifice on the outside, the interior features genuine Art Deco motifs – very classy.
The evening took the form of a conversation between noted Australian writer and commentator, Don Watson and the special guest.
George Saunders came across as a genial chap, interesting and funny.
My ambivalence to his novel Lincoln in the Bardo was turned around after seeing him speak about it.
The novel is not really suitably set up for reading on a Kindle as I found the layout confusing and at times illegible when the font abruptly changed to italics set at a smaller point. This in turn detracted from the experience of reading the book.
It is undoubtedly a clever novel and passing strange, set as it is in a dead zone – the Bardo - inhabited by an extraordinary collection of ghosts, all with unique voices.
The evening’s discussion naturally centred on Lincoln in the Bardo and also touched on the present state of America under the Trump presidency in contrast to the America of Abraham Lincoln who has been regarded as an American hero throughout the nation’s history.
George Saunders reads an excerpt from Lincoln in the Bardo
George Saunders also was asked about his writing methods, to which he responded that rigorous revision was the key ingredient of his development of plot.
He read a short excerpt from Lincoln in the Bardo, including the source references. Ninety percent of these references are drawn from actual historical snippets, the rest are fictional. George Saunders would not say which were real or which made up.
It was an illuminating evening and a privilege to see George Saunders in person.
Podcast can be listened to here.