George Saunders on Stay Free!

Stay Free! has a nice interview with George Saunders, author of In Persuasion Nation. His book is on my “to read soon” list, but I’ve heard a few interviews with him and have been impressed with his thoughts on advertising and culture.

Here’s some excerpts from the Stay Free piece:

STAY FREE!: When you look at American culture today; commercialism, reality TV, the war, all the things that are in your stories – what do you see? What is your diagnosis?

SAUNDERS: I’ll give you a couple answers. One, there’s a cultural divide between the people at the top and the people underneath. So, in commercials: who’s making them? A handful of people. Why are they making them? To persuade us to buy things. There’s a group of people who have the power to broadcast and to put this huge machine at their disposal – this very beautiful machine that can make incredible images and sounds – and then there’s the rest of the population, which is “done to.” I would say that the gap between the doers and the done to is wider than it’s ever been.

and another:

SAUNDERS: On the other hand, I think it’s kind of funny, kind of joyful, kind of crazy – so I can look at it both ways. The point of the book really wasn’t, “Let’s ban advertising,” but just to sort of wallow in it a bit and come out a little more aware that these things aren’t really neutral.

Maybe another advantage of living a long time is you see the way the tonality of commercials has changed, even in my lifetime. And it’s not neutral and it’s not random. It’s very deliberate in the sense that somebody’s deciding to make these commercials and shows more aggressive, more hateful, more agitating. I don’t know why. I’m sure it’s very complicated.

This is just a taste. You can read the whole Saunders interview on Stay Free’s site. And of course there is Saunders’ actual books.

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