Jonathan Russell Clark in Literary Hub:
George Saunders is legendary in the literary community. He’s one of the few authors who has made a name for himself almost entirely on short stories, a feat all the more impressive considering how unmarketable story collections are. He now teaches at a highly respected MFA program at Syracuse, but in the bio of his first book, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline (1996), it says that he “works as a geophysical engineer” and that “he has explored for oil in Sumatra, played guitar in a Texas bar band, and worked in a slaughterhouse.” He was 38. In the 26 years since his debut, Saunders has won MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships, the Story Prize, the Folio Prize, the Booker Prize, a World Fantasy Award, and four National Magazine Awards.
Outside the literary world, however, Saunders isn’t exactly what you’d call a household name. Besides the fact that he primarily operates in the short-story form and that his only novel is, like his stories, an odd, experimental work about Abraham Lincoln hanging out in purgatory while grieving the death of his son, Saunders’s whole thing is dark and strange and satirical and, most significantly, morally aware tales. Some of them are just weird as hell, and all of them are thematically or ethically complex. His writing isn’t the stuff of mass popularity.