This year’s Booker prize has been won by George Saunders for his first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo. Yep I did say first novel. Yep that is a jealous sigh.
My mum sent me this quote from an interview he did earlier this year with Zadie Smith. I think it will resonate with every book lover, just as it did with me.
I was thinking the other day about the idea that you have a reader and a writer, and they’re different and they’re flawed and they’re fucked-up, each in their own way. And most times they’re in the middle percentile of human goodness. They’re just who they are.
Then, in the moment of reading, the writer comes up to the surface and the reader comes up to the surface and they kiss, like two fish. That actually does happen. We know that happens. They’re both briefly their best selves, or at least better selves. A flawed human being writes something and 60 years later a reader picks up the book and something in them rises to meet it. And I believe that, when this happens and the reader goes out into the world the next day, there’s some alteration that might possibly inflect the person positively.
Whether the book in our hands is by Jane Austen or David Sedaris, we all know that slight improvement in our posture that happens as a better version of ourselves ‘kisses’ a better version of the writer through the page.
I’ve added Lincoln in the Bardo to my Goodreads Want to Read list.
And as a first-time author I’m even more excited at the possibility that one day my own words, which have already made me ‘come to the surface’ in many, many ways, may positively inflect a reader as they go out into the world. Hopefully in less than 60 years though, or my publisher will kill me.
What a wonderful thing to love books!
Photo by Alex Loup