I think George Saunders hasn’t written a novel because he’s too much of a prose perfectionist. Because he’s unwilling to write a mediocre page. Because he likes the control the short-story form gives him.
“A novel is a work of a certain length that is somehow flawed,” a wise critic once said — and as I was told during the first few weeks of my MFA program.
To write a novel, and see to it through from the first word to the 150,000th, you have to be willing to embrace the idea that every once in a while your prose is going to be, for lack of a better word, more prosaic than it would be otherwise. Why? Because to get a reader to make it through 150,000 words (the length of my last, and about the length of your average robust novel), you need this clunky, unattractive but very utilitarian thing called a plot.