From Our Archive
This story was published before Summer 2021, when we launched our new digital experience.

Reading George Saunders With the Stars

The audiobook of Saunders’s first novel brings together friends, family, and A-list actors.


Film and TV


Two stars from Alejandro González Iñárritu’s latest film reflect on life in and...

Turn It Up


Turn It Up

The Bang & Olufsen Beogram turntable.

Jihae likes to clear her head by walking on the beach. It’s a place she finds calming. Fendi top and skirt.

Film and TV

How Jihae of ‘Succession’ Found Her Flow State

Travel as a tool for cultivating compassion, the power of conscious breathing, and...

Lincoln in the Bardo, the powerful first novel by short-story master George Saunders, represents a new genre: metaphysical oral history. Set after the funeral of Abraham Lincoln’s young son, in the early days of the Civil War, it is written partly as a series of fictional news clippings and partly in the voice of the dead-but-not-departed residents of a Georgetown cemetery. It reads like a play, albeit an unstageable one, given the dream logic of Saunders’s spiritual world. That and the 166 speaking parts.

The latter challenge presented an opportunity for the audiobook. “I had this notion to try and get a different person for each voice in the book,” Saunders says. He called on friends and family to read the “historical” portions. To play the ghosts, meanwhile, Random House assembled a cast that would make TV executives drool, including Emmy winners (Ben Stiller, Jeffrey Tambor, Bradley Whitford); Oscar winners (Susan Sarandon, Julianne Moore); comedians (Bill Hader, Keegan-Michael Key); musicians (Carrie Brownstein, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy); and writers (David Sedaris, Lena Dunham).

“I love the idea that, by casting actors and nonactors, we were able to simulate that ‘I hear America singing’ notion,” Saunders says. “They all combine to make this sort of egalitarian polyphony that I think is very true to the spirit of the book.” The audiobook of Lincoln in the Bardo is out now.


Let’s Keep in Touch

Subscribe to our newsletter

You’re no longer on our newsletter list, but you can resubscribe anytime.