There may be no better story tellers in their respective fields than George Saunders and Jason Isbell. Good on GQ for having the idea to bring the two together to have a sit-down conversation. All too often you see interviews with creative folk, in which the interviewee has become so used to the questions and beats of an interview that her answers become robotic. When you sit the same person down with a person that they admire, who is coming from a similar yet mechanically different field, it can lead to a really engrossing conversation.
Saunders just became the second American ever to win the Man Booker Prize for his staggering novel, "Lincoln in the Bardo," which is right at the top of my list of favorite books of 2017. His short story collections "Tenth of December" and "CivilWarLand in Bad Decline" are absolute must reads for someone looking to get into the form. Saunders is able to mix elements of science-fiction, postmodernism and satire to great effect. His stories often feature flawed but deeply grounded characters, dazzling dialogue, a feeling of displacement, and an inevitable, emotional gut punch.
I've only recently come across the work of Jason Isbell, and have found in his music a portal into the country/western style that I have always remained willfully ignorant of. I think what attracts me to a singer/songwriter like Isbell is a deep and unrelenting vulnerability that inhabits his work. Bad country music has a stench of inauthenticity, but there is something raw and searing about Isbell's work that cuts through all the stereotypes of his genre. You can tell that Jason is proud of his musical tradition, while challenging the conventions of contemporary country.
As I get older it get's harder to keep my tastes from crystallizing, and I'm always thrilled when someone comes along and challenges the misconceptions I have about a the world. I'm not sure what will end up being my favorite album of 2017, but you can be damn sure that "if We Were Vampires" will be my favorite song of the year.
If you are the kind of person who loves to listen to talented people talking about their craft, this conversation will not disappoint. I've listened to parts of it multiple times, and it is one of the best videos I've come across all year.