George Saunders March 27 and 29

Acclaimed short story writer will read from his work and lecture on the craft of fiction

Inner Horn is a small country. So small, in fact, that only one citizen at a time can fit inside, leaving the other six residents to wait their turns in the adjoining Short-Term Residency Zone. But when Inner Horn unexpectedly shrinks, the population spills into neighboring Outer Horn — a crisis that quickly gives rise to a jingoistic dictator named Phil.

George Saunders. Photo by Caitlin Saunders.

Such is the premise of The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil (2005), a wickedly funny and wildly original political allegory by George Saunders.

Next week, Saunders, the Visiting Hurst Professor of Creative Writing at Washington University in St. Louis, will deliver a pair of events for The Writing Program in Arts & Sciences.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 27, Saunders will deliver a talk on the craft of fiction, followed by a reading from his own work at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 29.

Both events — presented as The Writing Program’s spring Reading Series — are free and open to the public and take place in Hurst Lounge, Room 201, Duncker Hall.

A reception and book signing will immediately follow each. For more information, call (314) 935-7130.

In addition to The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, Saunders, a professor of creative writing
 at Syracuse University, is the author of three short story collections — In Persuasion Nation (2006), Pastoralia (2000) and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline (1996) — as well as a collection of essays, The Braindead Megaphone (2007), and a bestselling children’s book, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip (2000).

In 2000, The New Yorker named Saunders one of the “Best Writers Under 40.” In 2006, he was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Grant for “bring(ing) to contemporary American fiction a sense of humor, pathos, and literary style all his own.”

“Mr. Saunders writes like the illegitimate offspring of Nathanael West and Kurt Vonnegut,” notes Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times. “(His) satiric vision of America is dark and demented; it is also ferocious and very funny.”

Saunders earned a bachelor’s degree in 1981 from the Colorado School of Mines and master’s in 1988 from Syracuse University. Prior to joining the Syracuse faculty, in 1997, he worked as a technical writer and geophysical engineer at Radian International in Rochester, New York, from 1989-1996.

Saunders’ fiction appears regularly in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Esquire and GQ, among many others.