Saunders on Vonnegut

The inimitable George Saunders writes about Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five for Amazon’s Writers Under The Influence series.

My understanding of literature at this time was: Great Writing was Hard Reading. If written properly, you could barely understand it. Often, a scene I was imagining indoors suddenly sprouted stars and a riverfront. At a fictional dinner party where I had understood there to be three people present, six were suddenly required, based on the sudden appearance of three unfamiliar names. In terms of language, Great Writing was done in a language that had nothing to do with the one you spoke. The words were similar, but arranged more cleverly, less directly. A good literary sentence was like a floor with a hole hidden in it. You got to the end and thought: “Why’d he say it that way? He must really be a great writer.” Plain American language was a degraded thing, good only for getting around your dopey miniature world, cashing checks and finding restaurants and talking about television and so on.

Read the rest here.