The Anton Chekhov-George Saunders Humanity Kit
February 17, 2017 6:54 AM   Subscribe

A little over three years ago I asked George Saunders whether I could sit in on one of his MFA classes at Syracuse, and, flabbergastingly, he said okay. In an effort to transmit the benefits of the taking the class to readers more widely, Maria Bustillos put together the Chekhov–Saunders Humanity Kit.
posted by AceRock (9 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
Did Bustillos receive permission from Saunders to redistribute all this (semi-private) material? I'm not seeing anything on the website about it. It seems vaguely unethical to receive permission to sit in on one (1!) class and then publish the material under your own name.
posted by crazy with stars at 7:13 AM on February 17, 2017

Holy heck, what an exciting thing! Thanks so much for posting this!
posted by Greg Nog at 7:25 AM on February 17, 2017

This is kind of OMG ridiculous!
posted by kneecapped at 7:42 AM on February 17, 2017

Perhaps one could argue: by assigning that first Chekhov story Saunders has given tacit permission to act without fear, or at least to act first and ask forgiveness later.
posted by TreeRooster at 8:26 AM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you hear someone saying, “You know what? I really did something bad.” And you say, “Well… I’m sure it’s not that bad,” and then he tells you, and it is really bad. You know. There’s something fascinating about that. It really is a basic human curiosity… or it’s a basic human delight in mocking someone else, or being able to look down on someone else.

So that’s one of the arrows in our quiver. And if you can do it, like we all can, actually—some of us do it better than others—that’s a valid… valence. You can almost feel Chekhov rubbing his hands together when he gets on that riff about: “He’s a man in a case.” “Yeah, that’s right! He always wears galoshes and—you know what else? His penknife! It’s in a case.”

That’s a very simple pleasure. That’s actually what propels us through this story, is that there’s this despicable guy. Is he going to stay despicable? Yeah!—he is, actually. That’s kind of good.
The last thing I want is for this to become a political thread, but damn if this isn't revealing about the current moment.
posted by AceRock at 8:27 AM on February 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Thanks for posting this, AceRock. There's some really good writing and analysis in the series of posts.
posted by Agave at 10:00 AM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

publish the material under your own name.

This seems a surprising description of something that is literally called the 'Chekhov–Saunders Humanity Kit'. And why should we assume that the author doesn't have permission? I'm sure if there is internet outrage to be had about this, news will reach us in time, so let's just enjoy this without anticipating something that may never happen - sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
posted by howfar at 3:20 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Some friends and I went to see George Saunders speak at the JCC in SF a few nights ago. The whole time I was thinking about how I should be rejiggering my life choices so I can go study with him at Syracuse.

We decided we weren't too cool to wait in line for 45 minutes to get our copies of his new book signed. In an effort to make my hands less sweaty, I hit up the free hand sanitizer station, but it backfired horribly and I got sticky child hands instead. When we got to the front of the line, he held out his hand to me, and if I'm being honest I probably reacted with a look partway between horror and shame. I'd been planning on being my usual charming self; I could thank him for speaking, he'd thank me for coming, and we'd both walk away thinking "what a nice fellow."

Instead what I said was "I'd shake your hand, but mine are all sticky, and I think we'll both be happier if we avoid this."

We rubbed elbows instead. He thanked me for my courtesy. Such grace. I don't think I'd be able to get into Syracuse anyway.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 7:06 PM on February 18, 2017 [6 favorites]

I am an unabashed, full-on GS fangirl and I embrace this post wholeheartedly. Thanks!
posted by GrammarMoses at 8:31 AM on February 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

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