Over at Maud Newton's blog there's an interview with George Saunders. It's a fascinating talk that focuses on how Saunders goes about his writing as well as the need for compassion in writing.
I think we can make this desire to be compassionate and tender more practical. It seems to me that if a writer 1) pays attention and 2) tries to keep the mind free of preconceptions about what he wants the story to be about (or wants a character to do, etc.) Â then he will automatically move towards a story which is richer, more full-hearted, etc. In this model, compassion just means keeping yourself open to the possibilities of the story, which, in turn, means keeping oneself open to the possibilities of the world Â whatÂs actually there, rather than what you want to be there.
Between this and Saunders's story CommComm in a recent New Yorker, I'm getting really interested in his fiction. He apparently has a novel coming out called The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil. But I'll probably start with one of his short story collections.