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
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.
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).
This collection of short stories held me from beginning to end. There were stories of slightly altered futures, and of repentance, and of recovery. But mostly, the stories were about what it means to be alive and in the moment, all td in an adorable Midwest accent.
The writing is excellent and the stories imaginative. Just not my favorites, being a fan of 19th century British literature.
I would have appreciated another second or so between stories. A few times, the author/narrator went on to the next story and I didn't realize the previous story had ended (I mentioned above they were strange); it just sounded like another section of the same story.
The stories are unique and universal. If the author had not been the reader, it would probably have been confusing to listen to. But he made it clear that the ambiguities and vagueness and surrealism were as inherent to stories as to life.
Not what I expected! After listening to the first chapter I was thoroughly upset by the foul language. I guess some people find this type of book entertaining but for me it was deplorable.
George Saunders is a wonderful writer who has a great talent for reading his own work. The stories are very imaginative and unusual. This is a book I have listened to repeatedly because I enjoy it so much. The humour and inventive and fresh style of writing amazes me.
It stands out on its own.
He has such a flair for reading.
It is a very thought provoking book and yes it made me laugh.
Its a very good listen.
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