Letters From the Editor
Introducing Choire Sicha
Choire’s other life involves editing Gawker.com and running his own Web site, in addition to part-owning an art gallery in Chelsea. Apparently all of this is done pool-side, but we don’t mind – he’s one of the funniest writers on the Web and we’re glad to have him.
In other news, as Choire noted, my wife and I and our friend Chris saw George Saunders read (with T.C. Boyle) at the New Yorker festival. He’s one of the few contemporary short story writers whose stories I can actually finish, and his performance was fantastic – reading ‘Jon,’ he used inflections in the teenagers’ voices that I didn’t hear in the story, which is something since he’s already our best master of the off-hand like or ohmygodnoway. The jokes all hit home; he was relaxed, a great reader, playful and seemed sincerely happy to be there. Unfortunately Saunders didn’t finish the story, fearing it was too long but my impression from the books stayed in one piece: Saunders is one of our best living story writers, if not the best, and certainly up to standing in line with America’s greats. He has it all: lyrical style without sacrificing plot, an intense, cutting voice, a handle on our current lives, a wide view, tenderness, a big eye for the ugly, a tendency for the morbid, characters we recognize though they’re barely of our world. The way it stands it’s great fiction – risky, different, searing, a real story everytime. If he occasionally gives in for mawkish endings, so what – what good book has a good ending? If he’s occasionally too dark or fantastic (or too often set in themeparks?) for big sales, so what – literature, as they say, ain’t no horse race.
This was the meat of our group’s fight after the reading, at some bar in the Lower East Side. It was two against one for a while, then one against two, then my wife and I going head-to-head. Is he great? Merely good? Is he on O’Connor’s floor, or below on J.G. Ballard’s? God knows, but it was nice to fight about literature – I felt the same recently in a conversation with Dale Peck, defending Persuasion against Wuthering Heights; Peck has all the rhetorical grace of a rhinoceros but he’s whip-smart and probably the former captain of his kindergarten debate team.
There were no conclusions. The bar was a craphole, we left and went home, but we went home happy. Waiting for the L train at first avenue, we forgot we fought at all, and just remembered how funny Saunders had been.