The Gist

George Saunders’ American Ghosts

With his first novel, Saunders traverses the afterlife with Abraham Lincoln’s son.

Mike Pesca with George Saunders, author of Lincoln in the Bardo.

Chris Berube

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George Saunders’ first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, is a bit of a head trip. Half of it takes place in the liminal phase between life and death. It’s about Abraham Lincoln’s son, Willie, who died at the age of 11, but we almost never hear from him. And it takes about four to five chapters to understand what’s going on. “My goal is the early difficulty pays off later,” says Saunders. “Once the book teaches you how to read it, it takes you to places you couldn’t have gone otherwise.” Saunders talks to Mike about Lincoln, research, and his recent nonfiction work for the New Yorker.

In the Spiel, why CPAC has come around on Trump. (Hint: It’s because he’s the president.)

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