Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Night with Lincoln in the Bardo

George Saunders has come to Houston two times already but I passed on him both times. I'd never read Saunders and, frankly, wasn't interested in reading him. I'm not a huge short story reader.

Then I heard he was coming out with his first novel. Intriguing. Plot summary: Willie Lincoln and fellow ghosts in the afterlife. Intriguing. And I had a ticket to his author reading via my season subscription to Inprint. And, rather than an author reading, Saunders had organized a choral reading with actors from the Alley Theater. Intriguing. Furthermore, though I couldn't initially get my hands on a copy of his novel, I was able to find and read his most recent collection of short stories, and I was amazed at the freshness of Saunders' writing. Sold.

The set at the Alley Theater, arranged for a play, was actually eerily appropriate for a reading from Saunders' novel, Lincoln in the Bardo. The story takes place in a mysterious bardo, an afterlife, shortly following the passing of young Willie Lincoln. His father comes for a final visit with Willie at the cemetery where the little body has been temporarily interred in a friend's crypt, and Abe Lincoln, full of grief, acts on an impulse and pulls the child's body from his coffin and takes him in his arms. All around Lincoln, though unseen to him, are the ghosts and spirits of others who have passed away yet linger with the child in the bardo. "A laugh riot, " Saunders jokes.

The story is written like a play, of a sort. The author intersperses paragraphs and phrases he has taken from letters and books about Lincoln and the Civil War and the time. It sound It's brilliant and new and poignant.

After the reading, Saunders was interviewed by a faculty member of the UH Creative Writing Program, Mat Johnson. Saunders, like Johnson, is both a writer and a teacher of writers, and he tossed out tiny quotes and inspirations and thoughts for writers all night. "No worthy problem is ever solved within the plane of its original conception," says Einstein. And from author Donald Barthelme: " A writer is one who, embarking on a task, does not know what to do...." Saunders might be best when talking about the writing process. 

To close out the night, Saunders shared a little poem, Trump L'Oeil. The title is, apparently, a play on trompe l'oeil, which is an artistic device in which something appears to have more depth than it really has.

What else? Well, happily, I was approved for a media pass to BookExpo, so it looks like I'll be headed to New York City in May. Please share suggestions for what to do, what to see, what to eat, where to stay. I'm terribly excited.

Here's what I'm reading next week:

Anne of Green Gables
The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot
Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith
Stand Up and Sing: Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice

These are all wonderful books. I wouldn't be surprised if they were all in my Best of 2017.

Where am I, this fine spring break? If all goes well, I'm up in the Ozarks, on my hands and knees, digging through the beautiful red soil for quartz crystals. Weather forecast is for rain and freezing temperatures. Let's hope the weather folks get that wrong.

What is the Sunday SalonImagine some university library's vast reading room. It's filled with people--students and faculty and strangers who've wandered in. They're seated at great oaken desks, books piled all around them,and they're all feverishly reading and jotting notes in their leather-bound journals as they go. Later they'll mill around the open dictionaries and compare their thoughts on the afternoon's literary intake....That's what happens at the Sunday Salon, except it's all virtual. Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another's blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book. Click here to join the Salon.

The Sunday Post is a meme hosted by Kimba at Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It's a chance to share news and recap the past week.

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share books that we found in our mailboxes last week. 
 It is now being hosted here.

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews in which you can share the books you've acquired.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is where we share what we read this past week, what we hope to read this week…. and anything in between!  This is a great way to plan out your reading week and see what others are currently reading as well… you never know where that next “must read” book will come from! I love being a part of this and I hope you do too! It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is now being hosted at The Book Date.


  1. Hmmm...don't think the weather people got it wrong. Saw a Facebook post from a friend who is visiting in AR and there was snow on her mother's lawn. Good luck though and enjoy the cool temps, for summer and heat are coming, right? Your author event sounds very good. Glad you were able to attend and good luck with your NYC trip. Better you than me. This little Texas girl finds NYC a bit scary. LOL

  2. Ha...I love that "Trump L'oeil" comment, and the meaning of "absolutely appears to have more depth than it does.

    Sounds like a great week with author events and a new interest in an author you hadn't yet read.

    Thanks for sharing...and for visiting my blog. Happy reading!

  3. I am soon to pick up Lincoln in the Bardo from the library, which is holding it for me. Looking forward to this author.

  4. The event sounds really fun and so different from the usual author event. NY City?! Wahooo! That will be so much fun

  5. It sounds like seeing George Saunders was very enjoyable. I have yet to read his books but I have him on my TBR list! He seems like he has a good sense of humor. Terrific that you are going to BookExpo again this year! I will miss it this time but look forward to hearing all about it. Enjoy.

  6. I've never read anything by George Saunders before, but glad you had a fun time at the author event!

    Here’s my Sunday Post!

    Ronyell @ Rabbit Ears Book Blog and join in this week’s Book Photo Sundays!

  7. Your post was so interesting! Thanks for sharing everything on the George Saunders reading. I've never even heard of him, but yes Lincoln in the bardo seems like a good read. Glad you enjoyed the reading.

    Anne of Green Gables... one of those books you can just read over and over again. Have fun and enjoy your week!

  8. I found your blog via the linkup. I am so looking forward to Book Expo too.

  9. Sounds like a great author event. I hope you enjoy Book Expo too. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

  10. The Night with Saunders sounds like a bookish-highlight of the year (so far). Wish I was there.

  11. Great event. I listened to the audio version of Lincoln and loved it.

  12. Thank you for an interesting post. Lots for you to look forward to. Enjoy the Expo

  13. What a beautiful "Anne of Green Gables" cover!

    I took a short trip to New York City two summers ago and had so much fun! I'm looking forward to going back one day. The New York Public Library was amazing -- I especially loved the exhibit with the stuffed animals that inspired Winnie-the-Pooh! My second favorite thing was the Met. Also enjoyed our Circle Line cruise and the 30 Rock observation deck, and the 9/11 museum is a must. Have fun! :)

  14. Sounds like a wonderful author evening! I have only read an occasional George Saunders short story here and there, but have been seeing great reviews of his novel and am intrigued. Congrats on the media pass approval! Yay! I don't think I'll be going to BEA this year again, but am hoping to rev up my blogging anyway.

  15. I have LIncoln in the Bardo from the library, here in my little hands! Hope I like it!


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