Award-winning author George Saunders
spoke to a full house at the Egyptian Theatre the evening of March 2 as part of The Cabin's Readings and Conversations series. His thesis: Art can save the world.
"When art is working there's a communication that brings us up to a higher register," he said.
Saunders said he has been particularly distressed at the combative nature of America's political dialogue.
While never naming names, Saunders said political figures who marshal supporters with a message of division, anti-establishment rhetoric that delegitimizes the role of government, and media obsessed with conflict and sound bites play a big part in souring the national conversation.
"I suspect I'm not alone in feeling a little political angst," he told the crowd, drawing chuckles. "I think we can trace this back to polarization."
Art, Saunders said, has the power to humanize others and, at its best, draws people into viewing each other as fellow human beings rather than proxies for political ideologies. That can be tricky, he added, because artists who create art with an agenda can alienate their audience. Rather, art can be an outside force that guides artists to create works that defy the constructs of intention and politics.
"When we try to make art do what we want, the reader resists," said Saunders, whose 2013 short story collection, Tenth of December, was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Speaking of The Cabin, the deadline for entries to the fifth annual Writers in the Attic is Sunday, March 6 at midnight. The theme this year is "water." Submissions must be works of fiction, nonfiction, creative nonfiction or poetry authored by an Idaho resident. Entries must not be longer than 1,500 words, including the title. For more information, visit The Cabin's Writers in the Attic website