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
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.
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.
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.
I'm a designer (interiors and graphics) with an English degree. I recovered my love of reading after a disastrous bout with grad school.
Saunders is a formalist who loves to play with form. He is also funny, also witty. His characters are put through excruciating trials. They are often not bright. They are very earnest. Their relatives and bosses are often not bright, and are often also earnest. Everyone in these stories is suspended somewhere below the middle of a brutal pecking order.
But unlike other sardonic cool guys who are better and smarter than their characters (I'm looking at you, Sam Lipsyte), Saunders is not cruel. In fact, these stories are suffused with empathy and tenderness. Even while admiring some amazing feat of form or concept, I often found myself, halted on my morning walk, in tears for these characters.
I've only read Saunders in the occasional story he publishes in the The New Yorker, and have always relished their strange richness. A whole book of these stories is quite a bit more rich, and strange, so I listened to just one or two at a time. Not just because there's a lot to think about, but because there's also a lot to feel about.
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.
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