'This Week' Transcript: Two Powerhouse Roundtables

SAUNDERS: Right, or as Terry Evelyn (ph) put it, capitalism plunders the sensuality of the body. You know, so fiction isn't actually a great propaganda tool. And, you know, often the first impulse of a writer is kind of to pull up the big (inaudible) of his ideas and his politics and just sort of stand there, reader, and dump it. But if you -- I find if you just concentrate on language and on making sort of lively human situations, then ideas and sort of -- they come out of the woods...


STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that's what I wanted to ask you about. So if you set out to write overtly political fiction, it wouldn't work.

SAUNDERS: It never -- and I've tried. And it doesn't work. There's something about the intimacy of the exchange demands openness on both sides, and on the writer's part, opens means I really don't know. I might think I know, but I don't.

And it's weird, because the way to get to those ideas is through the language, paying attention, close attention to phrases and sentences, and if you do that in kind of an open state, not only will the ideas show up, but they'll be the highest form of your ideas. They won't be propagandist. They won't be superficial. But they'll be deep and sort of ambiguous.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It also seems like one of the things you're trying to create space for in those sentences is space for heart. And that's another way of reaching across our divides.

SAUNDERS: That's right. That's right. You know, I loved that Longfellow quote, which I'll probably mangle a bit, that said, if we could look into the secret histories of our enemies, we would find sufficient suffering and sorrow to disarm our hostility. And I think fiction is kind of almost like a mechanical way to work through your own shallowness. You start off with a kind of a condescending relationship to your character, almost by definition, and as you work with the sentences, you find that the bad sentences are equal to over-simplicity or condescension. And as you work with language, you move yourself towards complexity and often to a state of confusion where you really don't quite know what you think about the person.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You may not, but when you send it out into the world, when do you hope to get back?

SAUNDERS: I -- really, I think the highest version is, you're sending out a bundle of energy, you know, concentrated energy that you've made with your own sweat, really, and your heart, and it goes out and it jangles somebody. That's the highest form.

Now, there's another level where you do hope to make people more alive in the world, maybe more aware of the fact that there's -- we have more in common with others than we think we do. That's kind of a hope. But even that gets a little bit intentional. So for me, it's just trying to deliver an energy charge in a certain way.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you did it for me, and you've done it for so many more. The book is called "Tenth of December." Thank you very much, George Saunders.

SAUNDERS: Thank you, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: If you'd like to read an excerpt of it, go to our website at abcnews.com/thisweek.

And now we have some good news. As you know, this is the place in our program where we honor the sacrifices of our service members killed in action. But for the second week in a row, the Pentagon released no names of soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News" with David Muir tonight, and join us Tuesday night when Diane Sawyer and I will anchor complete coverage of the State of the Union starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA."


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