The stories were very compelling and memorable - Tenth of December (the last story) was truly a great story. I wasn't as fond of the stories that were more science fiction in nature.
Some authors should NOT narrate their own work and George Saunders is one of them. While the voice he used for some of the characters was adequate, his narrations of female characters were truly annoying. Moreover, his diction is horrendous. I found myself having to rewind and replay passages several times so that I could understand the words. Right after finishing this audible book I listened to two other books with professional narrators and the difference was astonishing.
This is a great book and worth the literary hype, but better to read than to listen to. Another suggestion is to redo this as an audio book with a professional narrator.
Loved how I never knew which way the author was going to take me as I began each new story. Shocking, sometimes disturbing, but always thoughtful and deep. Social consciousness peppered in to let us examine our choices and how they may end up as new social norms in the future. Very much appreciated, as many norms emerge without much thought as to the consequences.
One of the best listens in my long list of Audible purchases. George Saunders nails the characters as only an author can.
The characters hail from an intriguing array of situations, not all true to life, yet one finds something relatable in (almost) all.
Cudos to George Saunders!
Say something about yourself!
George Saunders's tales of a vast suburban wasteland fit the times. It's a bit uneven, but It's worth the price of admission for the first tale, "Victory Lap" and the last, "Tenth of December" both of which I listened to twice. I also enjoyed hearing the author read his own stories.
For those who don't know his work, Saunders is at once very accessible yet profound, with a few sci-fi elements, but really centered around the human mind. He creates fictional worlds to explain our inner world, that is the best way I can think of to explain.
What a treat to have Saunders himself narrate his own work. Now I sometimes hear his voice narrating my own thoughts. Weird. Loved these stories and have listened twice through already. Reading more in print, but look forward to more Saunders-narrated audiobooks hopefully.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
This was my introduction to George Saunders, but, man, the guy’s brilliant. The pieces here are all set in everyday America or in slightly dystopic versions of everyday America, with protagonists who are worn-down everyday people muddling through their lives -- standard lit-fic stuff. However, Saunders does some creative, funny, warped things with his stories and gets inside his characters heads with such brutal but compassionate honesty, I wondered how other writers could miss that rich, absurd stream-of-consciousness we all have going as we fumble through life.
The first story sets the tone by giving us the thoughts of a popular teenage girl contemplating her own preciousness right up the moment she notices she’s about to be kidnapped by a dangerous creep. Her only hope of salvation lies with the weird, unpopular boy next store, whose thoughts we also get, as he wonders how his bizarrely overprotective parents will respond to any choice he might make. Then we get the thoughts of the creep himself, who seems to be a few spoons short of a full silver drawer. Nothing about this scenario *should* be funny, yet it was hard for me not to laugh at the way each character rationalizes his or her actions.
Some story premises are more absurd or surreal than others. A guy working as a lowly bit actor at a Renaissance Faire witnesses a misdeed by his boss, and would have meekly let it slide, except the pill he takes to put himself into character works a little too well, transforming him into a noble knight whose beautifully oblivious chivalry makes a mess of things. A suburban dad with perpetual cash flow problems and a desperate desire to keep up with the Joneses decides to start a journal in which he shares his hopes and woes with the no doubt more enlightened people of the future, but as the story progresses, it sneaks up on us that this world has one odd feature... Then there’s the devastating Escape From Spiderhead, in which consciousness-altering drugs are tested on prison inmates.
The “straightforward” stories work beautifully, too. A young veteran with a dark wartime experience in his past returns home to his dysfunctional family and their oblivious neighbors, who treat him with that uncomfortable deference veterans often get, which leaves him feeling all the more disconnected. A loner boy living in an imaginary world encounters a mentally ill man who has escaped from a care facility and is bent on suicide, until something the boy does forces him to change his plans. Not all readers will like the darkness and the pitiful characters, but the internal monologues Saunders gives us are both poignant and hilarious, true to the rambling stream of fantasies, self-justifications, and self-examinations we all have going in our heads, as we try to be the heroes of our own stories, however unremarkable they may be.
I should mention that Saunders narrates his audiobook and is, like David Sedaris, someone whose work you really have to hear in his own voice to get the full effect. He goes fast and some stories are a little confusing if you miss a key detail, but I really didn’t mind giving a few a second listen. An American master of voice.
The Short Story is not my thing. Actually, there are a lot of "not my things" in regards to reading. I am so picky, and demand so much in an author, that I embarrass myself. It is apparent by the reviews that I am not the only one who notes that Saunders writes in a way that captivates most audiences. Similar to the way that Stephen King captures his readers, Saunders takes the naked word and strings them together with simplicity and a uniqueness that reaches a wide span of readers. In The Tenth of December, this talent shines through as Saunders donates "slices of life" to the reader. He has the ability, during the course of a ten minute short story, to introduce, evolve, and bring closure to his characters within their moment in time. The first selection, for example, addresses the most intense and sensitive subject out there. Yet, Saunders somehow manages to amuse the reader while maintaining reverance to the subject matter, and allows the characters we have grown to love (in 10 minutes!) to triumph in the end.
Say something about yourself!
Sometimes you just have to set a book down. Then, by all means, pick it up again. Not because it isn't good, but because its like a chocolate torte, and should be eaten in small bites in order to savor it. Because too much chocolate is just…ewewh. So, be warned, this book is funny, in a quirky type of way. Which I guess is exactly what the author was going for, so don't be afraid to put it down between stories and just….roll it around in your mouth so to speak, before you pick it up and listen to more. As good as these stories are, I am baffled as to why the author felt he should read them himself. But, maybe he was in a hurry, or didn't know anyone who narrates, or for whatever the reason, don't let his somewhat stilted narration stop you from enjoying it. Just…small bites. That's my advice, small, digestible bites.
Undeniably the best book I have read or listened to in a decade.
Short stories require the lightest touch, while developing characters and narratives in a very short time. I listened to this and laughed out loud, stopped in the middle of a walk to listen carefully, so very carefully, to the beauty of the language.
Description - hmmm. Maybe better to read the NY Times interview/conversation with George Saunders. Simple stated, stories that put a finger on the pulse of our times interspersed with tempo changes that either ground the stories in reality or allow them to soar into a kind of magical realism.
I felt heard and seen in the landscape as I listened to this astounding creation.
Since taking my first creative writing class in 2008 the pleasure I used to get from reading has been greatly reduced. I notice things I never noticed before. That said, I think I rate books pretty generously. Anyone who actually manages to write a whole book and then get it published deserves an extra star.
Saunders' characters struggle with issues we've all faced - or will face sometime in our lifetime: sorrow and loss, wanting to give more than we have to our children, conquering our deepest fears in order to do what we know is the right thing. But the settings of his stories are weirdly futuristic, and only somewhat recognizable. Saunders is a great narrator.