Funny, Insightful, Heartbreaking
These characters are so flawed and make such terrible decisions that they are sort of a parody of the dark side of human nature, and yet, they are so funny and sweet and rendered in such an interesting way that you can't help but love them in spite of their exasperating mistakes and misunderstandings.
I have read all of Saunders' previous story collections and essays on paper and loved them, but to hear them read in his own voice, with his local-guy Midwestern accent was really a treat. The stories are really suited to oral story-telling. I would love to see Saunders read Civilwarland, Pastoralia and In Persuasion Nation for Audible, as well.
Some of the story titles are works of art in themselves. I particularly liked, "My Chivalric Fiasco".
If you have ever wondered why people seem to act against their own best interests, if you have ever wondered how people get into debt, or why people sometimes seem to treat one another cruelly, George Saunders characters are beautiful portals into the lives of people whom you might not otherwise understand. You understand what it is like to be a moody teenager, a sensitive child, soldier home from a war zone, a guy stuck in a soul-sucking job, or a parent who just wants his or her kids to have a childhood a little less painful than his or her own. If the intent of a literary work is get you to willingly inhabit the life of another and look at the world through his or her eyes, this collection is a literary accomplishment.
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
The New York Times gives high praise to George Saunders’ book, “Tenth of December”. There are reviewers that disagree with Kakutani’ and Cowles’ laudatory comments about Saunders’ book of short stories but once a listener steps on the cracked ice of “Tenth of December’s” last story, he/she becomes a Saunders’ fan.
Saunders seduces a listener with simple phrasing–pulling one into a story and then ambushing the unwary with crystal clear insight to human foibles, self-delusions, and false dependencies. Saunders sees that measuring one’s success by possessions defines you as an inanity, an empty symbol of humanity. What we do; not just what we think is what we become.
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.
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.
I bought this yesterday, listened to it yesterday and am starting over again today. I love these stories.
Some of the stories kind of remind me of a Wes Anderson script, but darker- dry, smart, funny...and I loved hearing him read the stories, I think, had I read them myself, I would have had a different interpretation on some. He writes like I speak, but smarter.
Anyway- I loved it, listening again and I'm sure I'll listen many times over, and buy the book so I can underline clever sentences- the writing is just wonderful- so much to love about this book :)
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.
I would never be able to answer this question, but I can say this: George Saunders reads his own book in the way that I always wish authors could do. I'm not sure even my favorite actors could have spoken from inside these characters in this hilarious and poignant manner.
George Saunders reads his own book in the way that I always wish authors could do. I'm not sure even my favorite actors could have spoken from inside these characters in this hilarious and poignant manner.