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[Reading Room] Sticks by George Saunders


I’m on a George Saunders kick.

I mean, when someone can write a story with fewer than 500 words that makes you actually say “oof” out loud at the end? You’re going to want to go on a kick, reading their work.

“Sticks” is a grown man’s reminiscence about his father. It begins,

Every year Thanksgiving night we flocked out behind Dad as he dragged the Santa suit to the road and draped it over a kind of crucifix he’d built out of a metal pole in the yard.

That use of the word ‘crucifix’ is key. Doesn’t that make you want to keep reading? You know there’s more to this than just a funny story about fatherly quirks.

The story is extremely well crafted. You get the sense that there must have many revisions, re-revisions, reversions and more revisions to make it this tight.

That’s only depressing if we think our job as writers is to get as many words out into the world as quickly as possible. If we believe that our job is to craft stories, and that rewriting is a crucial (and enjoyable) part of writing, then George Saunders is our new mentor.

Write the crappy first draft. Then spend as much time as you need to, reworking it until it is art.

How Do You Feel About Revisions?

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