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
Unafraid to read from any genre.
I found the stories in this volume at the least, interesting and very creative, and at most, touching and telling of all the problems we Americans face in our American world. None of the characters in George Saunders' universe feel a sense of confidence or control in the way we are often used to from story protagonists. Instead, they struggle with the deluge of concerns, sometimes frightening and sometimes comically absurd, that we recognize in our own experiences. I think what makes this set of stories so telling is the way they connect with us as members of a strange (and often crazy) modern society, reflecting back into our gaze all the things we do and think: the conceits, the follies, the frustrations, the terrors, and the small acts of heroism.
Saunders narrates his own stories here, and I think he does a brilliant job illuminating the subtle elements, as only an author might. The stories are so layered and rife with comic detail that some other speaker would have to spend a great deal of time thinking through every intonation in order to do the book justice.
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.
Yes! The stories are so distilled in such a smart way and reveal things often in non chronological order, so I feel like listening to them again would lead to new insights.
I love the way that Saunders writes sci fi that seems wholly believable in the context of his "real world", which at times is magical with no fantasy element at all. His writing is concise and witty, and all of the stories are fast paced and felt fully formed, even though I would have loved to have read a novel-length version of ANY of them. You definitely get a sense of Saunders' technical past in his writing, although, while everything was smart and complex, nothing ever seemed overly complex at all.
The title story was BEAUTIFUL, and I loved The SG Diaries and Escape from Spiderhead.
Escape from Spiderhead totally captivated me. It makes huge statements as well as tiny, personal ones about the ways that humans fool ourselves into believing we are autonomous at all.
I really can't imagine that anybody would hate listening to this... It's funny, tragic, smart and strange. Probably one of my favorite short story collections ever!
I don't listen to books twice but this one is like theater.the author seems as good an actor as he is a writer
The beauty of this book is that there is no other book that compares to it. Well, Maybe catcher in The rye, huck finn, but this book is just as good! Yes it is that classic, that universal, that inciteful.
.the author seems as good an actor as he is a writer.
My reaction at first was so horrifyingly anxious that I had to put the book down until I felt i had the strength to deal with the outcome! What power!
Saunders KNOWS the mind of his characters. He disappears and only they remain. A book like this comes only rarely in a lifetime, in mine anyway. I hope not the author's.
avid and ardent admirer of the Arts (and alliteration)
as Mini(minimalist)Mies was wont to say....although I'm sure that Mr. Saunders has the chops to be a marvelous novelist... in this instance, i wish he had eschewed the longer form as only the novella in 10th of December seemed to me somewhat tiresome, whereas the short stories that preceded it were uniformly interesting in both form and content...he is a splendid reader (certainly, at the very least, of his own material) and i would love to hear him narrate more short stories. i would (and have) recommended this book to friends and am confident they will thank me for it.
Almost all the stories were downers! I ddin't know when one story stopped and another began. I abhorred the style of writing, couldn't follow one story after another. I can't say enough BAD things about this book and wonder how in the world it has become a best seller with so much hype.
If the stories were better.
See above. I see no redeeming value in this type of book
Too few others have already said this in reviews, and I just wanted to reinforce this point. Even though this is read by the author, he does a terrible job reading his own work. He reads way too fast and is marble-mouthed. He strings words together and at times is totally impossible to understand. There were times I had to go back and re-play the same sentence over and over (first time I've had to do this with and audiobook) and I still couldn't make out the words.
It's a shame too because the stories are interesting. I'm about 3 stories in, and finding it hard to continue. I wish I would have listened to the minority of reviewers who've expressed the same disappointment. Grab the physical book instead.
Yeah, well, I know Mr. Saunders is like a genius or something and I know this is like a book of short stories, except that some of them aren’t so short, and it is supposed to be like great and like, since I am the kind of reader/listener who is really careful to read reviews so I can be more than sure that I am going to read something that I love or, at least like, or at least find interesting. And so, if like your brain is watering for a real treat like maybe Hamlet, or maybe that’s not fair, so like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. And what you end up with is like a rerun of How I met Your Mother and it’s like a weird one where all the characters have the same dream and you see it from each screwed up characters point of view, then you would know what Tenth Of December is sort of maybe like. And if you can follow the way this review is written without crying for the English language and you really, really like dysfunctional characters that are like professional at being failures, then you might, well probably, would sort of like this book.
Seriously folks, I can’t understand why this book has gotten so much attention. It’s not just that every character in is dysfunctional, a lot of great books from Tom Jones to Holden Caulfield abound with dysfunctional characters and those books work quite well. Maybe this is supposed to be postmodern dysfunction? I don’t know. What this ends up being is a collection of stories about that guy you went to high school with, who came from a family that had trouble getting by financially and maybe the father drank too much? And everybody said the guy was not really stupid but something wasn’t right in his head. Later when you learned about impulse control in Psych 101, you thought of that guy right away. Do you really think short stories about a bunch of guys like that would be interesting? Really? Really? Just saying, think about it before you invest your valuable reading/listening time in Tenth Of December.
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