What piece of art changed your life? How did it affect you?
A short story called "Hot Ice," by Stuart Dybek. It was set in what was essentially my father's home neighborhood in Chicago and was the first work of literature I'd ever read in which I recognized the real-world model. So there was this jolt of energy, like: Ah, this is what fiction looks like when it is about the here-and-now. I'd only read older stories—Hemingway and so on—and this story seemed to be in Technicolor instead of black-and-white.
George Saunders is one of the greatest fiction writers alive. If you haven't checked out last week's cover story on Saunders in The New York Times Magazine, you should. And you should definitely check out his new collection of stories, Tenth of December (Random House).