Hearing a story as the author hears it in his own head is a rare treat. Saunders brings life to each of his characters on the page, but he talks the talk, too, with subtle and delicate differences among narrative voices as well as character dialogue-- both internal and in speech.
The breadth of characters in the very first story immediately engages the reader in the collections masterful acts of compassion and interpretation. This story makes room for dramatic differences in situation and inner landscape, uniting a naively optimistic young girl of beauty and privilege, an awkward and parentally- oppressed young guy, and a sometimes- self-aware would-be rapist, with voices raw and relatable and palpable dramatic tension. Saunders's characters manage to be understandable and condemnable by turns, and they flesh out real situations of humiliation and triumph that are deeply human and artfully rendered.
The first and last stories bookend the collection perfectly, framing the themes of intervention and self-actualization that define each of the stories individually and the collection at large.
Saunders is as good a reader as he is a writer. The quality of the stories as well as the performance make this listen a real treat.
Astonishing. Utterly compelling. I usually don't like to read short stories, but because of the reviews I just had to pick this one up. I'm going to buy the hard copy and probably listen to it again off and on for years...
As I said in my headline, I wish I rather had the book in hand. The author uses many current colloquialisms with which I'm not familiar (that shows my age!) and I would have liked to see them. The stories are good: bizarre, contemporary 'problems', esp. of parenting; that I liked.
I was not always sure who was talking
What I said above, applies to this book. Otherwise I am an avid audible.com listener.
I thought it was a little over the top for the New York Times to make that claim in the first half of January 2013, but having read Tenth of December I'm inclined to agree (even though it is still only February). I don't usually care for short stories because I like the slow reveal and the long involvement of a novel, but this collection is extraordinary. Saunders captures unique narrator voices that spring these unexpected characters to life in just the few pages allowed them. Pithy, relevant, economical, dark, and in the end fiercely hopeful. I won't say anything more. These stories are short and part of their glory is their punch, undiluted by even the faintest spoiler. Just do it.
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.
Yes. The stories had interesting forms, moving ideas, and revealed a sensitive portrayal of the ordinary human being.
The quirky style and the heartfelt understanding of people.
His own accent, his midwestern rhythm of speech, his own portrayal of the characters as he imagined them.
This may be a great book with great stories but I will never know because I had to turn it off after about 30 minutes. George Saunders may be a great writer but I will bet most listeners will not last the whole book.
You might think an author reading his own words would lend some magic or special understanding to the work (think Dylan Thomas or Stephen King or Garrison Keillor) but not in this case. He may know just what to emphasize or just where to go quiet, but he is inept as a reader, in my opinion. Saunders reads so fast that whole passages are lost. He reads with such a pronounced lisp that words mash together in a syllabant stew, losing even more meaning. I'm NOT making fun of his speech pattern but it is so annoying to listen to it makes me think he (or the publisher) should have chosen someone with a pleasant voice that conveys the emotion as well as the meaning of the words.
It's really too bad because this is probably one of those books that works better in print than on audio. The media is touting this as one of the best books of the year but I suggest you get the real book, even an e-book, but skip the audio.
I found the narration to be pretty good. With a few exceptions, I like it when authors read their own material. I think he did a good job with pacing and tone.
To be honest, I wouldn't recommend this book. The first couple of stories are good because they are fresh and new, especially for a first-time Saunders listener. The plots are intriguing and presented in a good way - a key word here, a phrase there - like slowing opening a present by the corners. But it just started getting repetitive. The characters seemed so similar, their situations were different in the details but not that different in the nature of the conflict. The internal conversations of the characters went from interesting and entertaining to repetitive and predictable. A couple of times while I was listening in my car, I found myself talking to the narration saying, "Yes, I get it. Move on!"
It seems like a lot of people like this book, so who am I to say. I don't usually write reviews, but wanted to give me thoughts, for what they're worth (probably not much).
An excellent collection of short stories.
I won't get into the details of the book. There are plenty of reviews that do that. I would like to say that if you have never read George Saunders, his writing style is very unique. He is fresh and original. On paper I would image he may be a little hard to follow. Read out loud though and you get the full effect of his writing. He writes much like people talk and that doesn't always translate into the best reading experience. Because his writing is like no one else, intelligently written and unafraid to go where others fear, it is hard not to like him. All that is required is an open mind.
The author did a good job narrating. Yes, someone else may have done better but his performance didn't hurt the listening experience. Listen to a sample and judge for yourself. I gave him 3 stars but 3 1/2 would be more accurate.
The only problem I have with the book is the poor job Random House Audio did in dividing out the chapters. Often it doesn't matter but with a short story collection it is helpful if the audio book chapters line up with the book chapters. They do not. Someone at Random House needs to find a new profession. I found one story I could not finish (The Semplica Girl Diaries). I spent god knows how long trying to find the end of the story. It is harder than you think. I didn't know if I was still in the same story or if I had jumped into the next. It was a real pain. Some of these stories should be listened to again and again. Being able to find them easily is something Random House should have considered. I took the time to locate the chapter start times.
Victory Lap 00:00
Escape From Spiderhead 53:20
Al Roosten 1:50:52
The Seplica Girl Diaries 2:15:17
My Chivalric Fiasco 4:32:13
The Tenth of December 4:48:52
Have a renewed interest in books after falling in love with audio books. I am listening to all different genres and exploring different authors.
I realize that this book received high reviews in 2013. However, in this compilation of short stories, I only really liked the first short story. I wish that first story could have been longer.