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This Week

Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George Saunders

From BooklistShort-form master Saunders’ debut novel grabs attention with audiobook audacity: a record-breaking cast of 166 voices, showcasing stars including Susan Sarandon and Rainn Wilson as well as expert audio narrators, notably Cassandra Campbell and Kirby Heyborne. Enter an alternate existence where the words of ghostly beings and factual quotes from Abraham Lincoln’s contemporaries eddy through the audible ether in a foggy miasma that conjures Oak Hill Cemetery, where Lincoln’s young son, Willie, has been newly interred in the mausoleum. Over a single evening in 1862, and through flashbacks augmented by passages providing historical context, listeners become enmeshed in the president’s sorrow as he enters the crypt to hold his boy’s body one last time.

Listeners are guided through the graveyard’s bardo (a Tibetan Buddhist post-death, pre-rebirth, indeterminate state) by Offerman as Hans Vollman, Saunders himself as Reverend Thomas, and David Sedaris as Roger Bevins: a trio of snarky, sardonic, sanctimonious spirits who remain tethered to the bardo in a state of bickering boredom. A choir of specters add their observations, from bawdy to mournful, while interspersed throughout are scores of short historical excerpts, each voiced by a different performer. The result is an auditory experience unlike any other, where the awareness of individual voices disappears while the carefully calibrated soundscape summons a metaphysical masterpiece. This is a tour de force of audiobook production, and a dazzling realization of Saunders’ unique authorial structure.

For more about this unique audiobook, check out the Booklist Reader’s series of Lincoln in the Bardo–themed posts, including Mary Burkey’s interview with Saunders and producer Kelly Gildea.

— Mary Burkey

Next Week

Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George Saunders

From BooklistShort-form master Saunders’ debut novel grabs attention with audiobook audacity: a record-breaking cast of 166 voices, showcasing stars including Susan Sarandon and Rainn Wilson as well as expert audio narrators, notably Cassandra Campbell and Kirby Heyborne. Enter an alternate existence where the words of ghostly beings and factual quotes from Abraham Lincoln’s contemporaries eddy through the audible ether in a foggy miasma that conjures Oak Hill Cemetery, where Lincoln’s young son, Willie, has been newly interred in the mausoleum. Over a single evening in 1862, and through flashbacks augmented by passages providing historical context, listeners become enmeshed in the president’s sorrow as he enters the crypt to hold his boy’s body one last time.

Listeners are guided through the graveyard’s bardo (a Tibetan Buddhist post-death, pre-rebirth, indeterminate state) by Offerman as Hans Vollman, Saunders himself as Reverend Thomas, and David Sedaris as Roger Bevins: a trio of snarky, sardonic, sanctimonious spirits who remain tethered to the bardo in a state of bickering boredom. A choir of specters add their observations, from bawdy to mournful, while interspersed throughout are scores of short historical excerpts, each voiced by a different performer. The result is an auditory experience unlike any other, where the awareness of individual voices disappears while the carefully calibrated soundscape summons a metaphysical masterpiece. This is a tour de force of audiobook production, and a dazzling realization of Saunders’ unique authorial structure.

For more about this unique audiobook, check out the Booklist Reader’s series of Lincoln in the Bardo–themed posts, including Mary Burkey’s interview with Saunders and producer Kelly Gildea.

— Mary Burkey



Author Extra

This Week's Guest:

Encore Presentation: Lincoln in the Bardo is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. The long-awaited first novel from George Saunders: a moving and original father-son story featuring none other than Abraham Lincoln, as well as an unforgettable cast of supporting characters, living and dead, historical and invented.

Air Date:

Check your local PBS and World Channel listings for air dates and times.

Bookmarks by Mary Ann Gwinn

Books by and about Refugees Many great books have been written about the refugee experience – Nguyen estimates that today the worldwide refugee population has swelled to 60 million people. get the full list >

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