One of the most important and blazingly original writers of his generation, George Saunders is an undisputed master of the short story, and Tenth of December is his most honest, accessible, and moving collection yet.
In the taut opener, "Victory Lap", a boy witnesses the attempted abduction of the girl next door and is faced with a harrowing choice: Does he ignore what he sees, or override years of smothering advice from his parents and act? In "Home", a combat-damaged soldier moves back in with his mother and struggles to reconcile the world he left with the one to which he has returned. And in the title story, a stunning meditation on imagination, memory, and loss, a middle-aged cancer patient walks into the woods to commit suicide, only to encounter a troubled young boy who, over the course of a fateful morning, gives the dying man a final chance to recall who he really is. A hapless, deluded owner of an antiques store; two mothers struggling to do the right thing; a teenage girl whose idealism is challenged by a brutal brush with reality; a man tormented by a series of pharmaceutical experiments that force him to lust, to love, to kill - the unforgettable characters that populate the pages of Tenth of December are vividly and lovingly infused with Saunders’s signature blend of exuberant prose, deep humanity, and stylistic innovation.
Writing brilliantly and profoundly about class, sex, love, loss, work, despair, and war, Saunders cuts to the core of the contemporary experience. These stories take on the big questions and explore the fault lines of our own morality, delving into the questions of what makes us good and what makes us human.
Unsettling, insightful, and hilarious, the stories in Tenth of December - through their manic energy, their focus on what is redeemable in human beings, and their generosity of spirit - not only entertain and delight; they fulfill Chekhov’s dictum that art should "prepare us for tenderness".
©2013 George Saunders (P)2013 Random House Audio
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.
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.
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!
This is probably the best audiobook I've experienced.
The characters are so intensely personal. I identified closely with so many of them.
Just listen to it. Some of the best storytelling I've ever heard.
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.
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...
Just not into normal.
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.
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