Image: George Saunders and Dick Cavett at NYPL

George Saunders and Dick Cavett

Just saw George Saunders at the NYPL, “interviewed” by Dick Cavett. The format was conversational, often dominated by Cavett’s frequent poetry citations. Like this one, from Philip Larkin’s poem “Aubade”:

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.

There was a collective “Mmmm” from the audience in response to the poem’s profundity. Yet the atmosphere remained light and jovial, in part due to Saunders’ ChicAHgo spin on words and Cavett’s well-earned nostalgia.

Saunders was as humble as ever, injecting the dialogue with deeply insightful and humorous lines. When asked to describe himself in “Tweet format,” he responded with: “Why so hard to get smarter & nicer?” Saunders describes one’s personal style as the language “that is readily available to you.”

George Saunders says of Dick Cavett, “he taught me how to be a person.” Cavett’s show created a space for falters, missteps, and insight– a space for humans to be human. And Saunders teaches me how to be human– with his humility, humor, and outlook. “Tenth of December” answers the question “Will good or bad prevail?” with “Well, how ’bout both?” BOOM. Human.

Cavett referenced Truman Capote and his lovely, lovely little voice. Thought I’d share: