MacArthur Fellows Program

MacArthur Fellows / Meet the Class of 2006

George Saunders


Professor of Creative Writing

Syracuse University

Syracuse, New York

Age: 47 at time of award

Published September 1, 2006
Portrait of George Saunders

George Saunders is a short story writer whose mordantly hilarious tales retain, at their core, deep sympathy and compassion for the lives he depicts. Characterized by a blend of contrasting elements, much of Saunders’ fantastic and fanciful writings combine satire and surrealism with a naturalistic, colloquial use of language. With a keen eye for absurdity, a precise ear for vernacular dialogue, and a distinctively deadpan narrative voice, Saunders explores the poignant disappointments of his downtrodden characters and the slightly skewed, vaguely futuristic version of American society they inhabit. While his stories are humorous, the moral dilemmas faced by his fictional mothers, husbands, siblings, and neighbors underscore their humanity and lend gravity to his work. Exemplifying this approach, the title story of Saunders’ collection Pastoralia (2000) satirizes in a manner both comic and sobering the indignities of the workplace through its portrayal of two theme park employees’ daily struggles. Other books by Saunders include the story collections, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline (1996) and In Persuasion Nation (2006); a children’s book, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip (2000); and a novella, The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil (2005). This sharply observant, highly imaginative author continues to influence a generation of young writers and brings to contemporary American fiction a sense of humor, pathos, and literary style all his own.

George Saunders received a B.Sc. (1981) from the Colorado School of Mines and an M.A. (1988) from Syracuse University. He worked as a technical writer and geophysical engineer at Radian International in Rochester, New York (1989-1996), prior to joining the faculty of Syracuse University, where he is currently a professor of creative writing. His fiction has appeared in such publications as the New Yorker, Harper's, and Esquire, among many others.

George Saunders In the Media

"Next Up for WSJ Book Club: Leo Tolstoy" thumbnail

"Next Up for WSJ Book Club: Leo Tolstoy"

The Wall Street Journal
George Saunders , 2006 MacArthur Fellow
Read More
"My Writing Education: A Time Line" thumbnail

"My Writing Education: A Time Line"

The New Yorker
George Saunders , 2006 MacArthur Fellow
Read More

"10 Ingenious Books By Certifiable Geniuses"

Huffington Post
Sandra Cisneros , 1995 MacArthur Fellow
Lydia Davis , 2003 MacArthur Fellow
Jonathan Lethem , 2005 MacArthur Fellow
George Saunders , 2006 MacArthur Fellow
Chimamanda Adichie, 2008 MacArthur Fellow
Junot Díaz, 2012 MacArthur Fellow
Karen Russell, 2013 MacArthur ...

Read More
"Lessons on Being A Good Human" thumbnail

"Lessons on Being A Good Human"

Coastal Illustrated
George Saunders , 2006 MacArthur Fellow
Read More

About the Fellows Program

The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. Learn More

Dimitri Nakassis, Classicist

Class of 2015

2006 MacArthur Fellows Announced

MacArthur Foundation today named 25 new MacArthur Fellows for 2006. The new Fellows work across a broad spectrum of endeavors. Read More