Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness

Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness

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by George Saunders
     
 

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Three months after George Saunders gave a convocation address at Syracuse University, a transcript of that speech was posted on the web site of The New York Times, where its simple, uplifting message struck a deep chord. Within days, it had been shared more than one million times. Why? Because Saunders’s words tap into a desire in all of us to lead kinder…  See more details below

Overview

Three months after George Saunders gave a convocation address at Syracuse University, a transcript of that speech was posted on the web site of The New York Times, where its simple, uplifting message struck a deep chord. Within days, it had been shared more than one million times. Why? Because Saunders’s words tap into a desire in all of us to lead kinder, more fulfilling lives. Powerful, funny, and wise, Congratulations, by the way is an inspiring message from one of today’s most influential and original writers.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
03/03/2014
An expansion of a commencement speech passed around the web, this essay hits warm and tender notes without straying from safety zone of feel-good advice. In a tone by turns grandfatherly and fun-loving, renowned fiction writer Saunders (Tenth of December) identifies his main regrets in life as what he calls "failures of kindness." While his exploration of kindness initially promises to pull from science and history, it falls back on the maligning of certain self-focused beliefs already widely maligned: the belief that one is indispensable to yet distinct from the universe, and the idea that humans are eternal. Portraying common major life goals (raising children, succeeding in one's career) as part of a never-ending, accomplishment-based cycle, Saunders impugns the cycle for distracting individuals from the important questions, yet he does not adequately establish why pursuing these should hamper an investigation of the meaning of life. Nor does he address obvious counterpoints—that children constitute a personal value of parents and that their pride is therefore an expression of personal joy. As life advice, the speech contains standard contradictions: seek the life that is most fulfilling to you individually, yet follow pursuits that will ultimately diminish your sense of self. His wording is genteel and his examples vivid, but the overall impression is that of a standard-issue secular sermon on loving one another. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
“As slender as a psalm, and as heavy.”The New York Times
 
“The graduating college senior in your life probably just wants money. But if you want to impart some heartfelt, plainspoken wisdom in addition to a check, you can't do much better than [Congratulations, by the way].”Entertainment Weekly

“The loving selflessness that [George Saunders] advises and the interconnectedness that he recognizes couldn’t be purer or simpler—or more challenging.”Kirkus Reviews
 
“Warm and tender.”Publishers Weekly

Library Journal
11/15/2013
Saunders has been on everyone's mind since the publication of Tenth of December, a much-praised New York Times best-selling story collection. This book expands on a convocation address he gave at Syracuse University, which has since drawn over one million page views on the New York Times website.
Kirkus Reviews
2014-02-06
Another example of an author who might well reach a wider audience through a graduation speech than through anything else he has written. Long revered among fans and fellow writers, Saunders saw his popular profile elevated through even greater attentions paid to (and accolades earned by) his most recent story collection, Tenth of December. In contrast to the playful postmodernism that often characterizes the work of the New Yorker writer and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, this meditation on kindness that he delivered in 2013 at Syracuse (where he teaches creative writing) is transparent in its message, which, he admits, is "a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I'd say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder." His address took him eight minutes to deliver—it subsequently went viral, like that of a similar address by the late David Foster Wallace—and takes less time to read. But its self-deprecating tone is as pitch perfect as one would expect from Saunders, and the advice it imparts seems sincere and ultimately more helpful than the usual platitudes, as he explains how "most people, as they age, become less selfish and more loving" and as they mature, perhaps become parents, begin to see how soul-deadening selfishness can be and how the struggles of ambition can put one on a seemingly endless cycle. There's plainly a spiritual underpinning here, as the author writes in favor of "establishing ourselves in some kind of spiritual tradition—recognizing that there have been countless really smart people before us who have asked these same questions and left behind answers for us." The loving selflessness that he advises and the interconnectedness that he recognizes couldn't be purer or simpler—or more challenging. A slim volume appropriate as a graduation gift.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780812996289
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/22/2014
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
64
Sales rank:
401,524
File size:
12 MB
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This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

MacArthur “Genius Grant” fellow George Saunders is the New York Times bestselling author of several collections of short stories, including Tenth of December, Pastoralia, and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, as well as a collection of essays and a book for children. He teaches in the creative writing program at Syracuse University.

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Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is an easy read with a profound message for young people. Its message will stay with you and help you realize that being kind matters! A required read for all graduates. I bought 3 copies for my young children and will give one to each when they graduate.
NY_Reader1 More than 1 year ago
This has nothing to do with the book (which is good) but rather the Nook preview. It's four pages. Four pages doesn't even get past the table of contents.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Terrible. No good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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