George Saunders explains the difference between “Frank was an asshole” and “Frank snapped at the barista who reminded him of his dead wife, who he dearly loved.”

See also: “I had read Ayn Rand at a vulnerable moment and I didn’t want to be one of those life-sucking parasitic artists. So then I went to engineering school and some good friends of mine that were teachers at my high school got me in—my grades weren’t so great. And then it became this mission to graduate from there and I did and went over to work in Asia in the oil fields and all the time I was reading. I had read only Thomas Wolfe and Faulkner and de Maupassant. So it was a really gradual thing. And then after I had been in Asia for a few years, I decided I really wanted to write.”