Dear Newsletter Comrades,
So, not that I’m counting, but it’s 20 days until the release of “Lincoln in the Bardo.” I was in Maryland last week, signing books in the Random House warehouse. It is always a weird thrill to see a finished book and in this case especially so because this one has been in my heart for a long time, since around 1994, and because the design is especially beautiful, I think.
I am looking ahead, so much, to the tour for this book, the schedule of which is now available at www.georgesaundersbooks.com/appearances. And looking forward, especially, to talking about some of the issues we are all obsessed with these days, and how they might relate to the book. (Strange days in the Republic, but I have a little mantra I plan to keep repeating over the months and years ahead, that goes something like: “Truth is still truth; cruelty still cruelty; love still love.”)
One of the book’s themes that is very much alive in my mind at the moment is the notion that if we only feel sufficiently the sorrow of life (the conditionality of all that we love; our mutual and collective vulnerability) this will convert into a feeling of generosity for our fellow human beings (a very vital form of “politics,” in my view, the most vital, really); and the related notion that if we can keep the idea of our eventual death “in the room,” so to speak, we’re more likely to live in a sensible, loving way. I recently had a wonderful conversation about this with Zadie Smith, one of my intellectual heroes, and she brought up this question of how we manage to live with the terrible conditionality of the two great truths always hovering around us: 1) we’re born to love, and 2) all that we love will eventually disappear (as will we). I didn’t have a particularly good answer then, and still don’t – but I do believe, now more than ever, that just bearing that contradiction in mind is a healthy thing – a way of, at least, acknowledging the fix we’re in.
In other news (other than “We are all dying,” ha ha), we’ve wrapped up the audiobook, which has 166 separate voices on it, including a host of great actors, Nick Offerman and David Sedaris doing the two biggest roles), and also: my parents, sisters, wife, kids, high school friends, many folks from Random House and ICM. It started out as a tentative query to Kelly Gildea, my audio producer at Random House, and she rose to the occasion and masterminded this huge venture. So grateful to her and hope you’ll check it out.
Another cool thing in the works is a short virtual reality film made by the talented writer and director Graham Sack. It dramatizes, in 3-D, a portion of the book. I saw an early version and found it very moving and strange – to be “in” this thing I’d made up, but in a different mode than the one in which I’d made it up, if that makes sense. You’re standing in a graveyard and all of a sudden….here comes Lincoln, and walks right past. You kind of want to grab him and ask for advice.
I’ve also been doing a little writing – wrote introductions for forthcoming collected works from Grace Paley and Bobbie Ann Mason, and a long essay for The Guardian about the difference between writing a novel and a short story. I’m also working on a TV series based on my story “Sea Oak.” Be sure and keep the kids far from the set if that one ever gets made, ha ha.
Hope to see some of you out on the road in February and March, and thanks again, and endlessly, for all of your support and interest.