GEORGE SAUNDERS: But on the other hand, what is an artist supposed to do? Resist his own time? I’ve sometimes felt, because of my background, a little under-informed about and under-engaged with contemporary political and intellectual issues. When I was young I didn’t live anywhere that had any real artistic life going on, and I’ve always regretted that, sort of — like, “I was never part of a movement.” And I think great works of art often come out of the sort of pressure-cooker environment that Miller describes NYC as being in the 1930s and 1940s. That’s where a person gets the deep immersion in certain ideas and artistic assumptions and then — if he’s lucky — he pushes those ideas and approaches forward, just a bit closer to the goal line. That’s called artistic progress. I’ve often felt a little vacant vis-à-vis the artistic movements of my time, and like the ideas that underlie my work are primarily emotional — they come out of my direct experience, but maybe not informed enough by bigger theoretical and political and critical ideas.
On Buzzfeed, Colin Winnette talks to George Saunders on Arthur Miller. See another interview from the same series with Aimee Bender on Lydia Millet.