I'd say it this way: The preconceptual world, when we walk out on the street and all that beautiful energy hits us, there's a split-second when we are just perceiving it. We haven't labeled it and thereby reduced it yet. We're just in it. And I think that's somehow the moment we're trying to recreate or simulate in that instant when the reader first reads your prose. Now that's tricky because we're habituated. So you say, "Oh, I'm on a street in Portland, Oregon. No big deal." But that street out there is not that. It's much more.
So my goal is to hint at that instant moment of crazy perception. And sometimes to do that you need to go a real long way around.
I think when Kafka wrote "The Metamorphosis" that was probably the most honest, autobiographical way he could explain the way life felt to him. And the reason we love him is because it is so counterintuitive, so bold, so gutsy in rejecting what I've heard called "consensus reality." Of course language is always reducing reality to simple things because that's how we get around. But there's that moment just before that happens that is so deliriously wonderful. I think that's what sometimes we can get to in fiction.
Excerpted from David Naimon's wonderful interview with George Saunders, which is in the new issue (#92) of Glimmer Train.