Sunday Spotlight: George Saunders

Author George Saunders discusses his short story collection, "Tenth of December."
5:00 | 02/10/13

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Transcript for Sunday Spotlight: George Saunders
You earned it. The book is really remarkable. So rich in so many ways. Funny and dark, realistic and absurd at the same time. But what I want to focus on for just these few minutes is that we talk about all the time here on "this week," you really seem to tap into this economic anxiety that so many americans are feeling right now. Yeah, yeah, well, I mean, it seems like that's the big american subject. You can talk about race, you can talk about sex, about your biopsy but when you get about class, people kind of clench up AND IN MY 20s I HAD A SERIES OF That kind of classic american experience where you are kind of going down and think that's ough, now I'm goinurn myself around and then you go down a little more. That had a tenderizing effect. When you started that experience, you were an ayn rand guy. I went to a school in colorado and kind of a dull-witted vaguely right wing kind of person that didn't know much about politics and then i went to asia and the oil business, and that opened up my eyes to suffering and the fact that wealth doesn't necessarily indicate that you are virtuous. It's just sort of a block. So one of the things you write about, the phrase you saide of wealth creates an erosion of grace. Right, capitalism thunders the sensuality of the body. Fiction isn't actually a great propaganda. Often the first impulse of a writer is kind of to pull up the big manure shock of his ideas and just sort of span their reader and dump it. But I find if you just concentrate on language and on making sort of liveliness of situations, then ideas and sort of -- they come out of the woodwork. That's what I wanted to ask. If you set out to write overtly political fiction, it wouldn't work. It never -- and I tried. 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, which means I really don't know. I might think I know, but i don't. 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 superficial but deep and sort of ambiguous. Seems like one of the things you try to create for in those sentences is space for heart. That's another way of reaching across our divide. That's right. That's right. I long that longfellow quote which I'll probably mangle but "if we could look into the secret history 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 couldn't condescending relationship to your character almost by deaf significance, and then the work with the sentences, you find that the bad sentences are equal to oversome that con desecondesencion and work with language you move towards complexity and often to a state of confusion where you really don't know what you think about the person. You may not but when you send it out in the world when do you hope to get back? Really I think the highest version is you're sending out a bundle of energy, you know, concentrated energy that you made with your long sweat really and your heart and it goes out and it jangles somebody. There'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 the hope but even that gets a little bit intentional. For me it's just trying to deliver an energy charge in a certain way. You did it for me and you've done it for so many more, the book is called "tenth of december." Thank you so much, george saunders. To read an excerpt, go to abcnews.Com/thisweek. Good news. This is the place in our program where we honor the sacrifices of our service members killed in acon. 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," and check us out tuesday night when diane sawyer and i will have complete coverage of the state of the union on ght. I'll see you tomorrow on "gma."

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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