UK Happenings

Bale Boone Symposium brings George Saunders to Lexington

An Evening with George Saunders will be presented both in-person and via livestream.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 7, 2023) — The University of Kentucky Gaines Center for the Humanities will present the 2023 Bale Boone Symposium, “An Evening with George Saunders,” at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19, in the Kentucky Theatre. This annual, free public symposium works to broaden the community’s understanding of the humanities, namely in an effort to bring in musicians, dancers, artists, historians and authors, all of whom work to promote education and equity through interdisciplinary approaches.

George Saunders is the author of 12 books, including "Lincoln in the Bardo," which won the 2017 Man Booker Prize for best work of fiction in English. He has received MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships, the PEN/Malamud Prize for excellence in the short story and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2013, he was named one of the world’s 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine. In support of his work, he has appeared on "The Colbert Report," "Late Night with David Letterman," "All Things Considered" and "The Diane Rehm Show."

“As Kentuckians, his novel 'Lincoln in the Bardo' has particular relevance,” said Gaines Center Associate Director Chelsea Brislin. “Not only does Saunders attempt to capture one of the most fraught times in the life of our former president, the illness and subsequent death of his young son Willie, he also plays with the idea of history and memory. Saunders includes actual historical records throughout his novel, highlighting the wide range of recollections from the evening of Willie’s death and its aftermath. Through this novel, Saunders brings us a fresh perspective on Lincoln (not an easy feat). We see Lincoln as a father so torn apart by the loss of his son that he returns to the family crypt to hold his body several times before he can bear to walk away (a fact verified by several newspapers published at the time).”

His stories have appeared regularly in The New Yorker since 1992. The short story collection "Tenth of December" was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the inaugural Folio Prize in 2013 (for the best work of fiction in English) and the Story Prize (best short story collection).

Saunders was born in Amarillo, Texas, and raised in Oak Forest, Illinois. He has a degree in geophysics from the Colorado School of Mines and has worked as a geophysical prospector in Indonesia, a roofer in Chicago, a doorman in Beverly Hills and a technical writer in Rochester, New York. He has taught in the Creative Writing Program at Syracuse University since 1997.

“Saunders visit to Lexington is an opportunity to hear from one of the most influential voices in the publishing world today, but beyond that, a comprehensive engagement of Saunders’ work can help tremendously in prompting us to consider directions in our own community,” Brislin said.

“An Evening with George Saunders” is free to the public, but registration is required. The registration link can be found on Eventbrite here. The event will be presented both in-person and via livestream. The livestream information will be available as we approach closer to the date. There will be a book signing to follow, and books will be available for purchase at the event through Barnes and Noble.

About the Bale Boone Symposium: 

Founded in 1984 by a generous gift from John and Joan Gaines, the Gaines Center for the Humanities functions as a laboratory for imaginative and innovative education on UK's campus. The center is devoted to cultivating an appreciation of the humanities in its students and faculty. The Gaines Center embraces varied paths of knowledge and particularly strives to integrate creative work with traditional academic learning.

Through the Bale Boone Symposium, the Gaines Center promotes dialogue, intellectual exploration and partnerships among campus, Bluegrass, and Commonwealth communities by sponsoring an array of public humanities and arts events. These events are a testament to the influence and memory of Joy Bale Boone and George Street Boone, who were committed to the betterment of the humanities. The Bale Boone Symposium is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For more information on the event, contact Chelsea Brislin at

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