The Touchscreen’s Reflection

In an interview with the Los Angeles Review of Books, the writer George Saunders describes the refreshingly non-Luddite approach to technology he takes in his fiction:

I like technology. I just think it’s complicated and funny, I guess — the way our basic neuroses are always seeking a home, and whenever we invent something new, our neuroses rush over there and get writ large. Before there were cellphones and Twitter and Facebook were people narcissistic? Ha. But those are beautiful ways of heightening our narcissism and putting a big old spotlight on it.

He goes on:

Or to put it another way: if the writer comes up with some strange device, and then lets people play with it, we are going to find out about people.

If we have a device that lets us look into other people’s thoughts, we are going to find out about, say, humans’ need for attention and their pride and so on. “What does she think when she first catches sight of me?What? A big nose? I do not have a big nose!” So that story isn’t really about that device, or about technology — but about, say, pride, or self-regard. So the technology or sci-fi aspects are, I guess, means to an (old, classic, traditional) end: hold a mirror up to human foibles and tendencies.

In a separate interview with the New Statesman, Saunders explains his understanding of literary beauty:

I’m not giving up on beauty, I’m just going to redefine it a little bit. I remember hearing something that the writer Robert Stone said. He was on a navy ship off the coast of Vietnam and they were doing a bombardment and he said it would be wrong to call it beautiful but it was sublime. If something is intense enough, or refined enough, or exaggerated enough – maybe our previous definition of beauty was a little bit dusty.