The Do-It-Yourself George Saunders Class

There’s a lot to do.

Photo: Jeremy Sternberg

Have you heard that George Saunders has a novel out? The publicity has been pretty low-key, so you might not have. But in case you are curious — who is this Saunders fellow, what is he about, what’s his project? — here is something fascinating that you will not see anywhere else.

A little over three years ago I asked George Saunders whether I could sit in on one of his MFA classes at Syracuse, and, flabbergastingly, he said okay…. I’ve wrestled with how to write about the resulting experience in a way that would most clearly transmit the benefits I received to readers. I’ve reread the [Chekhov “About Love” trilogy] stories many times in the years since, and it’s always acutely pleasurable — increasingly so, in fact. The repetition in slightly different circumstances is something like the telling of a literary rosary; the same ideas seen and considered through all different prisms of personality, time and circumstance grant a newly deepened awareness each time. This is the sensation I sought to reproduce in what follows. In the end I made this kit, which provides a number of methods by which you can experience The Little Trilogy, and George Saunders’ teaching methods, on your own, according to your own purposes.

It’s Awl pal Maria Bustillos! (She spoke with Saunders for us several years back.) She’s put together a rather voluminous collection of materials on and about his Chekov class, including contributions from Sarah Miller, Ryan Bradley and David Lipsky. Be sure you carve out some time to take it all in.

Chekhov-Saunders Humanity Kit