There is nothing more irritable than departments, regiments, courts of justice, and, in a word, every branch of public service.
—-Nikolai Gogol, The Overcoat
I included this Youtube video of George Saunders and some writing tips.
The first question is “What is your favorite short story?” and he answered “The Overcoat” by Nikolai Gogol. He said, “It’s funny and sad and I think it’s the way that God actually thinks of us if he in fact does.”
I have had the story “The Nose” by Gogol as one of my short stories before.
Like “The Nose” – “The Overcoat” is written in an older style – more telling than showing – but it is as genius, funny, and shattering as Saunders says it is. I had read “The Overcoat” before – long ago – but didn’t remember all the details… only the sadness and feeling of helplessness. Reading it again it was even more heartbreaking, knowing what was going to happen to the hopeless protagonist.
Read it here:
from East Of the Web
The next question on the interview is “Best piece of writing advice?”.
He replies that a mentor Tobias Wolff told him, “Don’t lose the magic.” Great advice.
I am a huge fan of Tobias Wolff – if you ask me Wolff’s story “In The Garden Of The North American Martyrs” is my favorite short story (or at least one of them) and one of the best ever written.
I’ve used a couple of online Tobias Wolff stories for my stories of the day before:
On both of those entries I wrote about my favorite Tobias Wolff story:
I remember one time, years ago, he was giving a talk at the Dallas Museum of Art as part of the Arts & Letters Live series. Well, I’m poor and can’t afford the full price ticket to these lectures, but, for a lower price, you can attend and sit in an auditorium off to the side where the lecture is beamed in on a screen. I was sitting there, waiting with a few other people (the main room was packed) when I looked up and there was Tobias Wolff, walking between the rows talking to us. He said he didn’t think it was fair that we had to sit in the other room and had arranged for an extra row of seats to be installed down across the front. We all marched into the big room and saw the live lecture, right up on the first row, thanks to the author.
It was really cool and thoughtful of him – and I’ll never forget it.