George Saunders

Flex your kindness muscle, jerk

One of my favorite short fiction authors, George Saunders (that is, short story, not short in stature), regrets his many failures of kindness.

51xfEKhLwAL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Saunders released a new book this year entitled, “Congratulations, by the way,” and I would highly recommend it for your bookshelf. Honestly, it isn’t as much a book as it is a transcript of a commencement speech he gave. But it is fun. Also, the cover is pretty and the kindness theme is a blunt and necessary reminder. All this, of course, is well worth your time.

I found Saunder’s book at (uhem) *Urban Outfitters* in the clearance bin while on vacation. Clearance bin!? How kind.

Anyway, I’d like to be more kind.

I’ve never thought about kindness being a skill. Can it be a skill? If so, then the consequences are scary. It means our kindness can improve. I always assumed, embarrassingly, that kindness was limited by our predispositions, how our parents and community nurtured us. I assumed that “kind people” were naturally built to be nice, and the jerks (that’s me) were off the hook for round-the-clock niceness.

But framing kindness in this new light asks us to reconsider our intentionality (as well as coming to terms with the necessity of proper planetary social interdependence). Are we doing enough?

Saunders does three things in this book that I very much respect: 1) he admits he wasn’t always kind 2) he explores why we aren’t all necessarily inclined to be kind and 3) he assumes that everyone could be kind if they just focused on better (more selfless) things.

Here’s a couple quotes from the (incredibly) fast read:

“What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering and I responded… sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.”

“Since we have observed that kindness is variable, we might also sensibly conclude that it is improvable; that is, there must be approaches and practices that can actually increase our ambient level of kindness.” (more…)

Kevin’s Ultra Hip (Hella Sick) Summer Book Club

Recently, I made a pact with my brain. That over summer I would spend more time reading than Netflixing. Netflix, my best fake friend, is a great tool for relaxing, especially after a 23 credit semester, say, by me. And, oh, I wanted to veg-out on Netflix more than my hipster neighbor wanted rollerblades. But I made a pact, and pacts are serious.

Previous post-semester breaks have included many veg-out TV series marathons (8 seasons of 24 and 9 seasons of How I Met Your Mother come to mind). To be Frank, I’ve still been enjoying Netflix in moderate occasions: a Sherlock episode here, a Comedy Bang-Bang there. But moderate is where I’m trying to keep it.  It’s time to take a break from marathon Netflix summers and, instead, marathon some books.

And the readings have been excellent so far.

If you are looking for some great books to read, then please, read these. We can talk about them together and start a cool kid reading club. Maybe you’ve read a few. Maybe you’ll have a little catching up to do. Maybe you can pick and choose. Either way, join my club. It will be ultra hip and hella sick. We’ll watch The Pagemaster together at the end of summer, and it will be fun.

Kevin’s Ultra Hip (Hella Sick) Summer Book Club

 The_Stand_cover1. The Stand by Stephen King – Completed

I just finished this one the other night, and I had never felt so accomplished. 1200 breathtaking pages. Technically though, it’s sort of cheating. I started the book back in December. The Stand is super long, and I had to wait till my semester was over to read most of it. But it was worth it! Also, Hollywood making a big budget movie. You could be ahead of the curve! (more…)