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Tenth of December

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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 opening, "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 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 opening, "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 antique 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' 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."


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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 opening, "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 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 opening, "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 antique 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' 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."

30 review for Tenth of December

  1. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    The first and last stories in this book are, I think, masterpieces, and affected me more than I would have thought possible-- they're just short stories, after all. In the first one, a dreamy teenage girl is in her house, having fantasies about her own kindness and attractiveness. After only reading her narrative for a minute or two, I felt completely involved, which is uncommon in my experience of short stories. Next I was in the head of a neighbor boy, who is just coming home, the many, many The first and last stories in this book are, I think, masterpieces, and affected me more than I would have thought possible-- they're just short stories, after all. In the first one, a dreamy teenage girl is in her house, having fantasies about her own kindness and attractiveness. After only reading her narrative for a minute or two, I felt completely involved, which is uncommon in my experience of short stories. Next I was in the head of a neighbor boy, who is just coming home, the many, many rules of his insanely controlling parents ringing in his ears. Then someone else, someone with bad intentions, arrives in the neighborhood, and I was in his head, too. There's a "call to adventure" that reminded me of Joseph Campbell. In the last story, a man with a brain tumor decides to spare his family his own long, torturous death by going outside in 10 degree weather and dying of exposure. But there's someone else out there, a pretty hapless kid, with his own crazy narrative playing in his head. I liked that the first story was a call to action, and the last story was a call to acceptance. The stories in the middle, seven of them, are all interesting and worth reading, but those stories at the beginning and end are the ones I will remember for a long, long time. And I find Saunders' ability to get you right into the heads of his characters extraordinary.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paquita Maria Sanchez

    Reading short story collections in one sitting is ill-advised, particularly when they can be as emotionally coals-rakey as Saunders can be. However, there's a certain cloudy state my head can fall in from time to time where he is one of the only voices out there that doesn't make me feel condescended, and can make me laugh despite myself. You know how it is when your brain refuses to be pleased, where you for no good reason just pout like a grade-schooler who doesn't like her birthday present, Reading short story collections in one sitting is ill-advised, particularly when they can be as emotionally coals-rakey as Saunders can be. However, there's a certain cloudy state my head can fall in from time to time where he is one of the only voices out there that doesn't make me feel condescended, and can make me laugh despite myself. You know how it is when your brain refuses to be pleased, where you for no good reason just pout like a grade-schooler who doesn't like her birthday present, and so ruins her whole party just to make some bullshit point. When you've subconsciously set your mind to shielding yourself in your cold, shady spots. Well, this man can drag me out, by my hair if necessary, tickle me while I stubbornly frown and kick, and keep at it until I finally can't help but let go, and I laugh and he laughs and we both roll around feeling silly upon realizing how chameleon-like, how quick to disperse our at one point stoney, steely, other solid-y things-like perspectives can be after nothing but a moment of being cracked open for a little sunshine spill. For this reason, I save his books until almost nothing else will do. Sure, there's bitterness here. There's cynicism, oh definitely. Sometimes the tone can be a bit same-y. But to suggest that some trick is afoot, or that these stories are vacuous or lacking in some essential empathy or feeling, that's just bullshit as far as even my most critical states of mind are concerned. Mine, not necessarily yours. He is not for everyone at all times, but he was for me today, so thanks for that, man. Thank you for being my dose of Gleemonex this evening. It was worth the wait, baby. Oh, and Victory Lap is one of the strongest Saunders stories I've ever read. So if you don't want to dig through this whole book, just read that one. Seriously, read that one. Read it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    It's aggravating when all the critics turn out to be right and us readers just feel like we're trooping along behind them baa-ing and bleating obediently George Saunders go-o-o-o-d, Dan Brown ba-a-a-a-d. The cover of this book is festooned like a Chrismas tree with blurby simperings from Jonathan Franzen, Zadie Smith, Margaret Atwood, Jon McGregor and o, yes, Thomas Pynchon. I guess after that lot they couldn't be bothered to call up Philip Roth, Barack Obama or Nelson Mandela. I bet those three It's aggravating when all the critics turn out to be right and us readers just feel like we're trooping along behind them baa-ing and bleating obediently George Saunders go-o-o-o-d, Dan Brown ba-a-a-a-d. The cover of this book is festooned like a Chrismas tree with blurby simperings from Jonathan Franzen, Zadie Smith, Margaret Atwood, Jon McGregor and o, yes, Thomas Pynchon. I guess after that lot they couldn't be bothered to call up Philip Roth, Barack Obama or Nelson Mandela. I bet those three were pretty miffed at not being asked for a quote. Or maybe they sent in their effusive paragraphs but the publishers had enough by then and they didn't make the cut. I think this irritation at having our taste and opinions herded around makes some people burst out with denunciations of The Beatles or Shakespeare or David Foster Wallace, it's like artistic Tourette's syndrome, I do sympathise with such victims. Tenth of December is stuffed with at least seven great short stories, really the only one I didn't love immoderately was the title track, so Mr Saunders gets an obedient baaaa!, baaa! from me.

  4. 5 out of 5

    brian

    the level of genius ain't sufficient to disguise the fact that most of these stories lack heart*. consider DFW and maureen mchugh, both of whom paint with roughly the same palette -- y'know, the pomo'ey, quirky, capitalism & consumerism, blahblahstuff-white-people-like-etcetcetc** -- but whose stories feel not only topical and cultural-critiquey but also weighty and alive. saunders seems in love with an idea and kind of schematically lays it out as if a mere essay in the short, quirky the level of genius ain't sufficient to disguise the fact that most of these stories lack heart*. consider DFW and maureen mchugh, both of whom paint with roughly the same palette -- y'know, the pomo'ey, quirky, capitalism & consumerism, blahblahstuff-white-people-like-etcetcetc** -- but whose stories feel not only topical and cultural-critiquey but also weighty and alive. saunders seems in love with an idea and kind of schematically lays it out as if a mere essay in the short, quirky fiction form. maybe craving a bit more roundness, heart, and/or weight is some reactionary booshit on my part or maybe saunders just doesn't do this as well as all the naked-emporer watchers say. i'll go with the latter, but i'm not sure. all this lazy reader wanted was a good read about weird people. gonna go pick up the new lawrence wright. *'the semplica girls diaries' is a near great story ** a terrible & obvious reduction, particularly for 2 such unique writers, but you catch my drift

  5. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    You know those disconcerting dreams where nothing you can do will seem right; lose-lose propositions are the only ones on offer? Well George Saunders is the large deluxe pizza you ate before bed. He's the likely culprit. I started with a comment about Saunders himself because his stories, and collections in general, are hard to review. Plot summaries don’t really work because there are too many of them. Unifying themes aren’t always easy to come by either. Even if there are common threads, they’ You know those disconcerting dreams where nothing you can do will seem right; lose-lose propositions are the only ones on offer? Well George Saunders is the large deluxe pizza you ate before bed. He's the likely culprit. I started with a comment about Saunders himself because his stories, and collections in general, are hard to review. Plot summaries don’t really work because there are too many of them. Unifying themes aren’t always easy to come by either. Even if there are common threads, they’re often obscured, as though anything obvious would go against the short fiction writers' creed. Which brings me to another point. Might it often be more accurate to call a “short” story a “truncated” story instead? They’re not so much whole stories that happen to be short as much as ones that might have been whole but were lopped off – skipping background, transitions, and even endings. But that can make them fun puzzles to solve. Any discomfort we get from our fragmented look can be included in that all-important category of conflict. But none of this helps the reviewer. Yet, hard as it may be to frame, this book is crying out for a discussion. I think it’s fair to say that Saunders is the flavor of the month. When the NY Times Magazine features an article called “George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You’ll Read This Year,” we can assume there’s a buzz about him in Lit World. Those familiar with his past work applaud this one for its greater realism. It still has absurd elements, but each story is allowed to find its most natural, relatable way to be told. Wasn’t there some famous sculptor who said he never knew what object would come from a big chunk of marble until he started chipping away to find out? The more mature Saunders evidently has less use for surrealism and I suspect his empathy is more apparent when his people seem more real. Having read only a few of his stories before this, I can only speculate. His style may have evolved, but his targets have not. He’s still the class warrior he always was. That said, I never found his characters to be pat. For instance, I don’t think he equated being poor with being noble or right, rather, just people to be pitied. To Saunders, capitalism is hard, with a whole range of possibilities within the construct. In an interview, he was thinking back on his own leaner times and said, “the cumulative effect of an absence of wealth was the erosion of grace.” As a younger man he was an Ayn Rand acolyte. When he fell away, he fell hard and it politicized him. It makes the piece he wrote for the New Yorker, posing as Rand’s former young lover, all the more prickly as a satire. His liberal sentiments are well-established, but he can surprise us with human tendencies at odds with them. For instance, one story called “Semplica Girls” came to him in a dream. He said in the linked interview, “I went to a window that didn’t exist in our house, and I looked into the yard, and I saw a row of what I understood in the dream logic to be third-world women who had a wire through their heads,” he said. “Instead of horror, my reaction was like, ‘Yeah, we did it.’ Just like if you’d gotten a new car or a kid into school or something, that feeling of, I’ve come such a long way, I’m able to give these things to my family. And there was a sense that there was an alleviated shame.” If I were to point to a common element in these stories, I’d say that they’re good at maximizing our discomfort. They do their damnedest to pose moral dilemmas. We’re led to a point where we want to judge, but can’t quite do it. There but for the grace of good fortune goes the reader – a statement that speaks to the compassion that Saunders elicits. My favorite story, the title piece that was put at the end, was somewhat of a contrast to the moral quandaries that preceded it. An unpopular schoolboy was walking home lost in a reverie, casting himself as a hero to impress a girl, when he encountered a coatless man in the snow who was hoping to front-run a death decreed by cancer. Preferred courses of action were clear, and they were ennobling. It was a nice note to end on. Humanity scored a clear winner for once. I’ll close with a reference to a conversation Saunders had at one time with DFW, J. Franzen and B. Marcus on the topic of the ultimate aspirations of fiction. (How many of us would gladly have been maggots on the molding of that room?) “The thing on the table was emotional fiction. How do we make it? How do we get there? Is there something yet to be discovered? These were about the possibly contrasting desire to: (1) write stories that had some sort of moral heft and/or were not just technical exercises or cerebral games; while (2) not being cheesy or sentimental or reactionary.” I’m not sure this collection met the goal completely, but I could tell that it tried. Let’s give him credit for that.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kemper

    One of the stories in this collection features experimental drugs that can enhance someone’s verbal ability to describe an event. I feel like I could use a few doses of that stuff to help me review this book because I’m struggling to articulate what I found so good about it. At a basic level, there are ten short stories that reminded me somewhat of Kurt Vonnegut because Saunders uses sci-fi concepts and humor in several of them to depict various aspects of human nature, but this has some nastier One of the stories in this collection features experimental drugs that can enhance someone’s verbal ability to describe an event. I feel like I could use a few doses of that stuff to help me review this book because I’m struggling to articulate what I found so good about it. At a basic level, there are ten short stories that reminded me somewhat of Kurt Vonnegut because Saunders uses sci-fi concepts and humor in several of them to depict various aspects of human nature, but this has some nastier edges than you’d usually find in Vonnegut’s more melancholy tone. I enjoyed almost all of them, but there are three stand outs. Escape From Spiderhead features a genuinely disturbing account of a prisoner being used an experimental subject for various drugs that can be used to make someone fall instantly into love or hit a suicidal depth of despair within moments. Victory Lap is about a young man whose behavior has been so dictated by his parents that he finds himself almost paralyzed as he witnesses a neighbor girl being abducted. Exhortation is written as a message from a corporate middle manager urging his people to do a better job that takes a sinister turn. There are similar characters and ideas brought up in a several of the stories like a dystopian future with a corporate layer of bullshit laid on top of it. Both Spiderhead and My Chivalric Fiasco have drugs that can modify behavior to extreme lengths. Prominent characters are poor and stupid like Al Roosten and the narrator of The Semplica Girl Diaries. The only one I didn’t care for was the very short Sticks about a man whose yard decorations get increasingly bizarre. That one seemed more gimmick than story.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Tyler

    Saunders is not for me; he is cut from a cloth that I cannot comfortably wear. I would categorize him with Pynchon, Eggers, Donald Barthelme, de Lillo, David Foster Wallace, Thom Jones, and Ward Just. I just cannot get along with these authors, just like I cannot get along with certain types of music. I can search for a sentence or two that is remarkable but I just cannot go with their flow. I like so many authors and there are so many books that I will never read because I will have died first, Saunders is not for me; he is cut from a cloth that I cannot comfortably wear. I would categorize him with Pynchon, Eggers, Donald Barthelme, de Lillo, David Foster Wallace, Thom Jones, and Ward Just. I just cannot get along with these authors, just like I cannot get along with certain types of music. I can search for a sentence or two that is remarkable but I just cannot go with their flow. I like so many authors and there are so many books that I will never read because I will have died first, that I probably won't give this type of author another try. Little touches of sci fi or magic realism -- no matter how minute -- always annoy me. The fault lies in my own taste, I concede. I am not edgy or indy. I am not cutting edge. I am not "au courant" and could perfectly happily reread Dickens and Trollope forever. I am certain that I am not the reading public that most authors seek preferment from. I really liked the end of the acknowledgements when he said that somewhere in his youth or childhood he must have done something good. A nice shout-out to "The Sound of Music" which complicates the narrative voice. I guess I cannot tell if and when he's being ironic.

  8. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    My second foray into Saunders after a lukewarm response to Pastoralia was an unprecedented success. His writing has sharpened its teeth and mellowed its heart and toned down its comedic chutzpah and the results are staggering pieces like ‘Escape From Spiderhead,’ a short moral parable that builds to a slow, devastating climax, ‘The Semplica Girl Diaries,’ a long moral parable that unfurls creepier revelations and a deeper-rooted sadness with each page, and ‘Home,’ a medium-sized moral parable My second foray into Saunders after a lukewarm response to Pastoralia was an unprecedented success. His writing has sharpened its teeth and mellowed its heart and toned down its comedic chutzpah and the results are staggering pieces like ‘Escape From Spiderhead,’ a short moral parable that builds to a slow, devastating climax, ‘The Semplica Girl Diaries,’ a long moral parable that unfurls creepier revelations and a deeper-rooted sadness with each page, and ‘Home,’ a medium-sized moral parable that simmers, snorts and saddens. There are traces of his previous opaque absurdity and multi-perspective obfuscation, such as in the title piece, or the opening story ‘Victory Lap’—there are numerous stories in here that don’t particularly stick in the mind two hours later—but the prose is tighter than before, each sentence sandblasted into shorthand and the dialogue always has a trace of titter on its tongue, expertly balancing the silly with the murderously serious. Good (if unhurried) things lie ahead for Mr. Saunders. Hear him chatter on Bookworm.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    I like reading short stories but I hate writing about them. A short story is so fleeting and ephemeral -- it's like trying to describe a cloud. This collection of 10 short stories by George Saunders is especially difficult and elusive. His writing is rich and visual, but there is always danger lurking for each character. I had to take a pause break after finishing each story because I felt so unsettled. My favorite stories were "Victory Lap," which involved two high school students and a traumatic I like reading short stories but I hate writing about them. A short story is so fleeting and ephemeral -- it's like trying to describe a cloud. This collection of 10 short stories by George Saunders is especially difficult and elusive. His writing is rich and visual, but there is always danger lurking for each character. I had to take a pause break after finishing each story because I felt so unsettled. My favorite stories were "Victory Lap," which involved two high school students and a traumatic incident; "Escape from Spiderhead" about a prison inmate who is enrolled in a chemical testing study; "Puppy" about two women trying to make the right choices for their children, albeit in very different ways; and "Exhortation," which is a company memo written to boost employee morale in a challenging job. I wanted to read this book because of a fantastic article written about Saunders in The New York Times earlier this year.* That article references a lovely convocation speech he gave, in which he advocates for treating others more kindly: "What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly. "Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth? Those who were kindest to you, I bet. "It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder." *You can read the NYT article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/06/mag...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Quann

    I knew that I liked George Saunders' after loving last year's Lincoln in the Bardo , but this short story collection made me want to run out and grab everything else he's done. There's a palpable thrill to picking up one of Saunders' stories, which show an immense range over the course of ten individual tales of varying length. I always looked forward to reading this collection because I never knew which Saunders I'd be encountering. While one of the more recent collections I read had very good I knew that I liked George Saunders' after loving last year's Lincoln in the Bardo , but this short story collection made me want to run out and grab everything else he's done. There's a palpable thrill to picking up one of Saunders' stories, which show an immense range over the course of ten individual tales of varying length. I always looked forward to reading this collection because I never knew which Saunders I'd be encountering. While one of the more recent collections I read had very good variations on a similar theme, Saunders goes all over the map with some key touchstones. In particular, I'd forgotten how outright hilarious Saunders can be. In stories like Victory Lap, Saunders turns a terrifying adolescent abduction into an examination of the teenage mind that is as hilarious as it is thrilling. Throughout the collection Saunders pulls off these feats of juxtaposition that both elevate and humanize the subject matter. In Escape from Spiderhead, we follow a man working at an experimental lab conducting research into alteration of the human experience through pharmacology that had me laughing at the start before dovetailing into horror before its conclusion. My least favourite story of the bunch, The Semplica Girls Diary, took the most work. As with all his other stories, Saunders uses a device to guide his characters' voice. In this case, it is a first time writer summarizing his day just before bed. This character uses a truncated writing style in order to get all his thoughts down before bed that was both a challenge to read and didn't make its full impact until later in the story (though it is the longest in the collection). Despite my quibbles, this is actually a much better story than many others I've read. This edition of the book came with an interview of George Saunders by David Sedaris. I'm a huge fan of Sedaris so I was more than happy to read insights into the stories of The Tenth of December, some of which I shared, while others offered a new angle that I hadn't considered. It was also terrific to read Saunders' approach to character, humour, and representation. Overall, this was an excellent short story collection and a great sampling of one of today's most acclaimed authors.

  11. 4 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    “It was that impossible thing: happiness that does not wilt to reveal the thin shoots of some new desire rising from within it”--Saunders I know, I know, I should have been reading George Saunders for decades, but I just didn’t. Maybe a couple stories here and there. Oh, and his commencement address on kindness. Then I read Lincoln in the Bardo and loved it. That combination of experimental fiction and unexpected, down to earth warmth. So I finally read Tenth of December, his 2013 collection of “It was that impossible thing: happiness that does not wilt to reveal the thin shoots of some new desire rising from within it”--Saunders I know, I know, I should have been reading George Saunders for decades, but I just didn’t. Maybe a couple stories here and there. Oh, and his commencement address on kindness. Then I read Lincoln in the Bardo and loved it. That combination of experimental fiction and unexpected, down to earth warmth. So I finally read Tenth of December, his 2013 collection of stories (and this is the main thing he does, short stories), and I loved it. Yes, yes, Saunders fans, I will go back and read some of his earlier work, too. I did what I usually do with story collections: I read the opening and closing stories, because they are usually the best, and I think that is true, they are the two best, but I liked almost all of them. There’s real depth and sweet humor, and formal play. Made me want to write. Just to call attention to some of them: The first story, “Victory Lap,” is about a young girl named Alison who is kidnapped three days before her birthday. Kyle sees it happen and has to decide what to do. We see it from his perspective and it is both darkly hilarious at points and terrifying. "Sticks” is about going a little crazy from grief. A father loses his wife and henceforth decorates a pole in his front yard in weird ways for holidays. “Escape from Spiderhead” is a weird sci-fi story about drug experiments conducted in a prison where prisoners fall in love or are sexually attracted to each other based on the dose. Not my fave, but not boring, and I mention it just to give you the range of what he does. "The Semplica Girl Diaries" is about a Dad who attempts to please his daughter Lilly and compete with wealthier families by buying her various lavish gifts, including Semplica Girls, women trafficked from third-world countries to be used as human lawn ornaments. His sensitive younger daughter Eva frees the Semplica Girls. The story is told in what I can only describe as “list speak” with a kind of shorthand: “Stood awhile watching, thinking, praying: Lord, give us more. Give us enough. Help us not fall behind peers. Help us not, that is, fall further behind peers. For kids’ sake. Do not want them scarred by how far behind we are. That is all I ask.” “One of pleasures of parenting, future reader: parent can positively influence kid, make moment kid will remember for rest of life, moment that alters his/her trajectory, opens up his/her heart + mind.” “Why were we put here, so inclined to love, when end of our story = death? That harsh. That cruel. Do not like.” Some other cool lines from other stories: “He was like the bed at a party on which they pile the coats.” “Kissing him last night at the pep rally had been like kissing an underpass.” “Why was she dancing? No reason. Just alive, I guess.” Overall I loved the collection. Moments of strangeness, moments of light. The best story, though, the masterpiece, is the title story, "Tenth of December" which originally appeared in the October 31, 2011, issue of The New Yorker. It’s about a 53 year old cancer patient going out in the woods to kill himself and finding a boy drowning. It shifts from the real to the imagined, feels often like a dream. At one point the boy, Robin, imagines himself a hero and then finds a coat and tracks. Whoa, he might be able to save someone! The cancer patient’s fantasy is to save his family from dealing with his inevitable decline. They encounter each other in this strange moment and are transformed. Here’s the story: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20... “Because, okay, the thing was—he saw it now, was starting to see it—if some guy, at the end, fell apart, and said or did bad things, or had to be helped, helped to quite a considerable extent? So what? What of it? Why should he not do or say weird things or look strange or disgusting? Why should the shit not run down his legs? Why should those he loved not lift and bend and feed and wipe him, when he would gladly do the same for them? He’d been afraid to be lessened by the lifting and bending and feeding and wiping, and was still afraid of that, and yet, at the same time, now saw that there could still be many—many drops of goodness, is how it came to him—many drops of happy—of good fellowship—ahead, and those drops of fellowship were not—had never been—his to withhold.” "Suddenly he was not purely the dying guy who woke nights in the med-bed thinking, Make this not true make this not true, but again, partly, the guy who used to put bananas in the freezer, then crack them on the counter and pour chocolate over the broken chunks, the guy who’d once stood outside a classroom window in a rainstorm to see how Jodi was faring […]"

  12. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    Three stars??? You gave the Adam Levin short story collection five stars, and this three stars? Yeah. Someone could probably successfully argue me out of this opinion, but there was a feeling that too many of the stories in this collection were not substantial enough. Maybe it is that it has been so long since his last collection was released that I felt there should be something more here. I did like all of the stories, none of them were groan worthy but none of them really stood out either. Three stars??? You gave the Adam Levin short story collection five stars, and this three stars? Yeah. Someone could probably successfully argue me out of this opinion, but there was a feeling that too many of the stories in this collection were not substantial enough. Maybe it is that it has been so long since his last collection was released that I felt there should be something more here. I did like all of the stories, none of them were groan worthy but none of them really stood out either. Maybe I'll revise this opinion later when I find that some bit of one of the stories has planted itself in my brain and I find myself turning over memories of the story. In case you don't read all my reviews let me say again, I hate reviewing short story collections. I'm also not really a fan of the short story. In musical terms too often they are like guitar solos, something that people with less philistine tastes than mine probably appreciate for their technical bravado, but which usually leave me feeling little for (although I can't think of any guitar solo that I like, or which I can say has 'rocked my world', the same can not be said of short stories. I do like quite a few of them, I know though that I've forgotten all the details about many many more of them then the ones that have left me with some residual mental reminder). Reading George Saunders you get the feeling that he is a very humane person. He wants to see the world as good and he has actual compassion for people. Even when he's writing about degenerate white-trash there is a warmth to him. I almost wonder if he is like one of the characters in his first story, Alison Pope, whose thoughts ramble on how much she loves her town and people in her town, and in a high school ethics class poll, "voted for people being good and life being fun, with Mrs. Dees giving her a pitying glance as she stated her views: To do good, you just have to decide to do good. You have to be brave. You have to stand up for what's right. At that last, Mrs. Dees had made this kind of groan. Which was fine. Mrs. Dees had a lot of pain in her life, yet, interterestingly? Still obviously found something fun about life and good about people, because otherwise why sometimes stay up so late grading you come in next day all exhausted, blouse on backward, having messed it up in the early-morning dark, you dead discombobulated thing?" I get the feeling he would like to have this view of people, but then real life comes as the unexpected knock to the back door. Delusions are present in almost all of the stories. The stories characters tell themselves in their heads, and the selves they create for themselves don't necessarily have anything to do with the way they really are. Other stories feature peoples inner selves being tweeked, modified or fucked up by fancy named pharmaceuticals. Violence runs through many of the stories, but it is rarely ever seen on the page. These are just a few themes I'm rambling off on. The collection reminded me quite a bit of Hot Pink by Adam Levin. Probably taken as a whole the stories are better, but none of the stories really take off like Levin's did in his handful of spectacular pieces. In reality both books probably deserve four stars, but for my own reasons one gets bumped up and the other down. Maybe it's that as a first collection Levin's was really good, and for Saunders I'm kind of hoping that he'll do something more, my expectations are higher. Not that the stories are bad or anything, they are good, but they always feel like a George Saunders story, which is a compliment when applied to other writers but I'm kind of hoping to see something more from him. It would seem that some of the younger writers out there are quite possibly working his terrain in ways that are a bit more satisfying than he's doing it himself.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Karl

    “The Tenth of December” by George Saunders was published in 2013 to quite a bit of fanfare. After reading the book of stories now I understand why all the noise and fuss. In fact the book was selected as one of the 10 Best Books of 2013 by the editors of the New York Times Book Review. This is a sound reason to avoid a book. I would normally shy away from this kind of book, which I did, until someone convinced me to read "The Tenth of December" which consists of the following stories: 003 -“ “The Tenth of December” by George Saunders was published in 2013 to quite a bit of fanfare. After reading the book of stories now I understand why all the noise and fuss. In fact the book was selected as one of the 10 Best Books of 2013 by the editors of the New York Times Book Review. This is a sound reason to avoid a book. I would normally shy away from this kind of book, which I did, until someone convinced me to read "The Tenth of December" which consists of the following stories: 003 -“Victory Lap" (The New Yorker, 2009) 029 -"Sticks" (Harper's, 1995) 031 - "Puppy" (The New Yorker, 2007) 045 - "Escape from Spiderhead" (The New Yorker, 2010)[8] 083 - "Exhortation" (part of "Four Institutional Monologues" from McSweeney's #4, 2000) 091 - "Al Roosten" (The New Yorker, 2009) 109 - "The Semplica Girl Diaries" (The New Yorker, 2012) 179 - "Home" (The New Yorker, 2011) 203 - "My Chivalric Fiasco" (Harper's, 2011) 215 - "Tenth of December" (The New Yorker, 2011) I also make an effort to avoid the magazines that the stories first appeared in, excluding McSweenies (the Quarterly book not the monthly magazine) so I had not come across any of this authors stories prior to this collection. This is MY LOSS. These stories are amazing, with not a bad story in the lot. The most outstanding stories to my mind were the longer ones such as “Escape from Spiderhead” and “The Sempilca Girl Diaries”, although “Sticks” does really stand out also. Some of the stories border in that realm between horror and weird and science fictional and fantasy and are all highly readable and most compelling. They were so well written infact that I found myself re-reading a couple of the stories as soon as I had finished them. Highly recommended.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    It is quite something to come across a writer of versatility and skill who doesn’t figure (now that they have your ear—you bought the book, didn’t you?) they will add more than they need just because they can. This is a slim volume of stories that all of us should have--to read, to cherish, and to share. Saunders has a distinct voice that reveals us as we are now. We may say that his stories do not have the language of the old masters, but they have the language we use, with more kindness, It is quite something to come across a writer of versatility and skill who doesn’t figure (now that they have your ear—you bought the book, didn’t you?) they will add more than they need just because they can. This is a slim volume of stories that all of us should have--to read, to cherish, and to share. Saunders has a distinct voice that reveals us as we are now. We may say that his stories do not have the language of the old masters, but they have the language we use, with more kindness, generosity of spirit, and humor mixed in than most of us can rustle up on an ordinary day. In the “Afterword” to Although Of Course You End up Becoming Yourself, an extended interview with David Foster Wallace by David Lipsky writing for Rolling Stone magazine, Lipsky says of Wallace’s style that he wrote “the stuff you semi-thought, the background action you blinked through at supermarkets and commutes.” You heard it, you know it, but it doesn’t register enough for you to articulate and consider. Wallace was able to do that, and Saunders does it also. He reaches in and gets that real thing that you discarded, shines it, and shows you how it defines us. If I could ask him, I would ask Saunders how he chose which stories to include in this volume. He spans the range of us, starting out in the mind of suburban teenagers looking at each other with longing or appraisal ("Victory Lap"), and ends with a gentleman of great age descending the staircase of dementia to his grave ("Tenth of December"). In between we catch glimpses of ourselves as returning soldiers filled with anger and hope ("Home"), twenty-somethings undergoing moral and medical testing ("Escape from Spiderhead"), and middle-aged parents aching to give their children more than they themselves had growing up ("The Semplica Girl Diaries"). Saunders is funny, kind, precise with his sword-thrusts which reach the heart but do not kill. I do not think we need ask “where do you get your inspiration?” since echoes of Mao Zedong ring through "Exhortation", and we also know the zany neighbor in "Sticks", or can imagine the source of the internal dialogue in "My Chivalric Fiasco". These people are us, and he treats us gently and allows us to laugh, with regret sometimes, with recognition at other times. But he doesn’t laugh at us and we don’t laugh with cynicism. We are grateful to Saunders because, despite his pointing out our failings and our shortcomings, we can sense he still likes us, and even celebrates our efforts in trying to make sense of, and make our way in, this crazy world. I have too many favorite bits to single one out. But perhaps after all, my favorite bit is the fact that he doesn’t use too many words. It is honed and toned and polished and clear and gets to the heart of the matter. It isn’t a long book, so you can easily find your own favorite bit. It’s all good. Go out and buy it. This is one you will want to reread: you will read it when you are happy, and you will read it when you are sad, you will read to see how he did that.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Generally ---this is not my type of book. I wanted to read it (expand my view --see if maybe I've 'matured' in taste) -- Overall I had a few laughs -- most of the stories were dark --(I found hard to find funny) --and I don't think I've matured at all. My mind drifted - (I had to 'work' to bring it back)-- Its seems there was less character storytelling & character development than storytelling of ideas. I still give the book a 3 (not less) --for the pure artistry I observed from the author.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Sumi

    Urgent, humane and deeply felt short stories by an absolute master of the form. Saunders’s voice is distinct, dark and confident, and he’s got a remarkable ability to set up narratives – some featuring dystopic settings – efficiently and with a minimum of fuss. The theme of chivalry and rescue runs through many of these stories, from the bravura opening story (“Victory Lap”) about an abduction attempt – told in three distinct voices – to the final two, one a tragicomic tale about a man trying to Urgent, humane and deeply felt short stories by an absolute master of the form. Saunders’s voice is distinct, dark and confident, and he’s got a remarkable ability to set up narratives – some featuring dystopic settings – efficiently and with a minimum of fuss. The theme of chivalry and rescue runs through many of these stories, from the bravura opening story (“Victory Lap”) about an abduction attempt – told in three distinct voices – to the final two, one a tragicomic tale about a man trying to do the right thing to protect an abused co-worker (“My Chivalric Fiasco”), the other (“Tenth Of December”) a look at how a life-and-death struggle irrevocably alters two misfits. Anger and frustration at social inequity – including class – come across vividly in many tales, but Saunders allows for moments of grace and redemption, even in the bleakest circumstances (see the brilliant “Escape From Spiderhead”). And while many of the situations are despairing – a returning war vet is a ticking time bomb with his extended family (“Home”), a father tries to keep up with the Joneses for his children but gets in way over his head (the masterful “The Semplica Girl Diaries”) – Saunders finds humour in his characters’ honest reactions. I can see myself reading almost each one of these 10 stories again and again, over the years.

  17. 4 out of 5

    meeners

    when did george saunders become so well known? i don't mean that to sound snarky - i am honestly astonished (and delighted) by the lavish attention tenth of december has been getting. i count george saunders high on my list of favorite living authors, but for the longest time i labored under the apparently woefully misguided assumption that he was unjustly unknown and unfeted (despite his regular appearances in the new yorker et al.). i was all set to write a magnum opus of a goodreads review in when did george saunders become so well known? i don't mean that to sound snarky - i am honestly astonished (and delighted) by the lavish attention tenth of december has been getting. i count george saunders high on my list of favorite living authors, but for the longest time i labored under the apparently woefully misguided assumption that he was unjustly unknown and unfeted (despite his regular appearances in the new yorker et al.). i was all set to write a magnum opus of a goodreads review in order to lift him out of the literary genteel poverty (i assumed) he was languishing in, only to find out that places like the new york times magazine have been feting him all along. then again, there are pieces like this one that seem to suggest that a lot of the hype is rather self-contained and perhaps smacking a bit of snobbery. i dunno. he is worth the hype, though. that i do know. apologies for the constant linking, but in reading this latest collection i kept thinking of this article and the really astute and compassionate way it talks about disaster in relation to social difference. as the author points out, people often think of disasters as flattening out landscapes, but in fact what they also do is deepen and reinforce existing inequalities (of class, gender, race, place). i've realized this is why i react with such immediate loathing when confronted with the superflat art of murakami takashi, to give just one example. his superflat art presents a slick world of utter surface in which we (as global consumers) are supposedly all on the same plane. but we're not. as george saunders shows, we are positioned in a vastly uneven landscape in which only those at the top can live in a superflat world as if nothing was at stake. but that's only a trick of perspective, as evidenced by all those left gazing up from the ruts and grooves made invisible by it. everything is at stake. a lot of the stories in this collection feature characters from both ends of the chasm brought unexpectedly together, with bizarrely surreal and melancholic and yet also simply really funny results. but what i love about george saunders (and this is true of many things i love) is that, while he deals with a lot of topics that can easily invoke cynicism and a certain kind of literary conceit (not to mention any names JEFFREY EUGENIDES), he himself is never, ever cynical. i can't even begin to do this book the justice it deserves. stories like "tenth of december" punch me in the gut, they leave me speechless and just...feeling like the world has opened up again, or like i've been plunged into the chasm, or like i've spent all day beating my fists against invisible walls that suddenly swing away and next i know i'm leaping into the sky. ah, hell. it's impossible to describe the effect of these stories. just read them. they are truly marvelous.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Melki

    Saunders is a master at taking the ordinary, the usual, the hum-drum and tossing in a bit of bizarro (okay...in some cases, it's a whole lot of bizarro!) to mess with the proceedings. Not every one of these stories hit the jackpot with me, but the ones that did were right on the money. And, yes, I did wait until today, December 10th to read the title story. Sometimes I'm so cute I make myself sick.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Leonard

    When this book was released in January of this year I heard that one reviewer proclaimed it the "best book of the year." I guess there's some wisdom in some circumstances to not have very high expectations, like when anticipating the accomplishments of the latest election winnners, but certainly the contemporary publishing industry in this country and world is still turning out enough remarkable writing, that we can at least be hopeful throughout the year. Unfortunately this is not one of those When this book was released in January of this year I heard that one reviewer proclaimed it the "best book of the year." I guess there's some wisdom in some circumstances to not have very high expectations, like when anticipating the accomplishments of the latest election winnners, but certainly the contemporary publishing industry in this country and world is still turning out enough remarkable writing, that we can at least be hopeful throughout the year. Unfortunately this is not one of those remarkable writings. Most of these stories are bland and uninteresting. The writing is choppy and unfocused. Much of it is simply short curt phrases, and not many complete sentences. It's true that people often speak like that in this world where many do not seem to have the time to construct complete sentences on electronic media via Facebook, e-mail, etc. It might be possible to imitate that in literature and turn it into an art form, but this book fails to do so. The best story in it is the second one, and that one is only two pages long. I haven't read any of Saunder's other writings, and based on this, his latest, I probably won't make much effort to check out this earlier books.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sam Quixote

    George Saunders’ short stories are an amazing blend of Donald Barthelme’s abstract weirdness and David Sedaris’ humour, and his collections - in particular Civilwarland in Bad Decline and Pastoralia - tend to be really good. Though it seemed that for every story I liked in Tenth of December there was a story I didn’t, so this one wasn’t as great as I’d hoped. The book starts promisingly with the excellent Victory Lap about a Rod/Todd Flanders-type kid who saves his neighbour/high-school crush George Saunders’ short stories are an amazing blend of Donald Barthelme’s abstract weirdness and David Sedaris’ humour, and his collections - in particular Civilwarland in Bad Decline and Pastoralia - tend to be really good. Though it seemed that for every story I liked in Tenth of December there was a story I didn’t, so this one wasn’t as great as I’d hoped. The book starts promisingly with the excellent Victory Lap about a Rod/Todd Flanders-type kid who saves his neighbour/high-school crush from abduction by a psycho. Escape from Spiderhead is a brilliant mix of comedy and horror set in a dystopian future where prisoners are experimented on by pharmaceutical companies in exchange for shorter sentences. Al Roosten is an amusing tale of an eccentric in a small town, living his life behind a mask and somewhat deluded and bitter about life in general. My Chivalric Fiasco is a funny story of an idiot who takes some pills and gets super-into his renaissance fair role. At his best, Saunders inhabits the heads of his characters so convincingly, creating unique voices and personalities for each one. The kid in Victory Lap is vastly different from Al Roosten who is totally separate from the convict in Spiderhead. That range, skill and imagination is a helluva talent to have and definitely noticeable when reading one story after another like this. Home, about a soldier back from war whose family is a wreck, was well-written and intermittently interesting but less pointed and memorable than the better stories. The same goes for Puppy and Exhortation, both of which are mundane critiques on Western society. Sticks is a one page story but is quite moving with Saunders impressively cramming a man’s life into such a short space, highlighting his changing priorities and perspectives over time. The two worst stories are unfortunately two of the longest. The Semplica Girl Diaries is a dull satire on Western materialism and the dichotomy between the rich West and poor third world countries. It’s also written in this incredibly irritating abbreviated style by a character who’s obviously not meant to be a capable writer and is rushing to put down his banal thoughts in some bizarre and ill-conceived attempt at posterity. This how reads sentences. Pages and pages style like this - awkward, yes, and doesn’t get better. Could barely read more than handful pages at time. V. flat and clunky msg. too. Grr. The title story is also intentionally written in an awkward way. One of the narrators is a man suffering from brain cancer who decides to kill himself rather than become a burden to his family but ends up saving a kid instead. The story is confusing to read to be reflective of the horrible disease, which is clever but not at all enjoyable and felt very self-consciously literary. The kid’s perspective didn’t really add anything either. There are definitely some hilarious and entertaining gems to be found in Tenth of December but if you’re looking for the best George Saunders collections I’d rec either Civilwarland or Pastoralia instead.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl Kennedy

    "A feat of inventiveness... This eclectic collection delights with its at times absurd, surreal, and darkly humorous look at very serious subjects." Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner These short stories may strike some readers as familiar tales, but Saunder's craft, honesty and focus on humanity separates them from other writers telling similar stories. At the core, according to the author, is a focus on the least understood condition of humans, our ending - death. And with that in mind, "A feat of inventiveness... This eclectic collection delights with its at times absurd, surreal, and darkly humorous look at very serious subjects." Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner These short stories may strike some readers as familiar tales, but Saunder's craft, honesty and focus on humanity separates them from other writers telling similar stories. At the core, according to the author, is a focus on the least understood condition of humans, our ending - death. And with that in mind, how we treat others. Putting Saunder's spiritual practice of Buddhism in context with his writing was an added dimension and enjoyment to reading his fiction

  22. 5 out of 5

    Hugh

    My only previous experience of reading Saunders was his Booker winner Lincoln in the Bardo, which I admired but found it hard to love. I have heard so many good things about his stories that I felt I should read some, but once again the weight of expectation made it hard for me to appreciate these at face value. My main problem is that much of this is a little too showy for my taste. Saunders is undoubtedly able to capture a wide range of voices, and there is plenty of surreal black humour and My only previous experience of reading Saunders was his Booker winner Lincoln in the Bardo, which I admired but found it hard to love. I have heard so many good things about his stories that I felt I should read some, but once again the weight of expectation made it hard for me to appreciate these at face value. My main problem is that much of this is a little too showy for my taste. Saunders is undoubtedly able to capture a wide range of voices, and there is plenty of surreal black humour and satire here, but however true it may be his view of America is a very dark one. I would not want to deter others from reading him - it is probably just my taste as a reader that is out of step...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Trudie

    I seem to be approaching George Saunders work in reverse chronological order. Of course I had heard of Saunders before his Booker winner debut novel Lincoln in the Bardo , I was aware he was a short story writer of some repute. However, for some reason I thought this book was going to be full of beautifully written yet ultimately dull "slice of life" affairs. How wrong I was ! This collection is a quirky oddball masterpiece. All of Saunders ribald and linguistic inventiveness that I admired in I seem to be approaching George Saunders work in reverse chronological order. Of course I had heard of Saunders before his Booker winner debut novel Lincoln in the Bardo , I was aware he was a short story writer of some repute. However, for some reason I thought this book was going to be full of beautifully written yet ultimately dull "slice of life" affairs. How wrong I was ! This collection is a quirky oddball masterpiece. All of Saunders ribald and linguistic inventiveness that I admired in "Lincoln" is here in miniaturised form. I don't know how he manages to balance often dark social commentary while retaining things like warmth and hope and humour. I look forward to any future works ( more novels please ) he might produce inspired by the current era we are all living through. Saunders calming, humanist viewpoint would be welcome right now. In the meantime I have several of his older short story collections to catch up on.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tatiana

    Catie told me that some stories reminded her of Black Mirror, and they do. What she didn't mention is that Saunders is quite funny. Hapless, kind-hearted underachievers seem to be his specialty. A rare short story collection that held my attention all the way through.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    I'm late to the George Saunders fan club, but Tenth of December was amazing. Belongs on the same shelf as Pynchon, McCarthy and DFW in the pantheon of amazing American writers. He has a voice that captures the depth and vibrations of America's modern tragicomedy. He dances on the same ground as David Foster Wallace. The sophistication of his prose is amazing. He writes on a tightrope of madness and morality. There were a couple stories that were objectively only four stars, but emotionally, I I'm late to the George Saunders fan club, but Tenth of December was amazing. Belongs on the same shelf as Pynchon, McCarthy and DFW in the pantheon of amazing American writers. He has a voice that captures the depth and vibrations of America's modern tragicomedy. He dances on the same ground as David Foster Wallace. The sophistication of his prose is amazing. He writes on a tightrope of madness and morality. There were a couple stories that were objectively only four stars, but emotionally, I wanted to finish this collection of short stories and run out and buy, beg or steal all Saunders other work. If that isn't a reason to give a book five stars, well my whole system of celestial ratings is completely F-ed.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jr Bacdayan

    There are small cracks in life which go unnoticed or avoided by the general lot of humanity. Little crevices that are perfect mixtures of bliss and sorrow, wunderkinds that jolt one into a sense of appreciation, bewilderment, wonder at this thing called life. George Saunders’ collection of stories delves into these wells to produce emotions from the very depths of being. His stories show the good in places where we fail to find it, stories of compassion to people who we condemn, stories of the There are small cracks in life which go unnoticed or avoided by the general lot of humanity. Little crevices that are perfect mixtures of bliss and sorrow, wunderkinds that jolt one into a sense of appreciation, bewilderment, wonder at this thing called life. George Saunders’ collection of stories delves into these wells to produce emotions from the very depths of being. His stories show the good in places where we fail to find it, stories of compassion to people who we condemn, stories of the unappreciated given their due. He gives voice to those we do not hear. I have not read an author with a deeper sense of humanity, with more compassion and understanding. What amazes me is that he achieves this with his style suggesting otherwise. There were more than a handful of times where I experienced fits of uncontrollable laughter, a great portion I had a stupid grin on my face. Of course, there were a great many parts where my emotion was stirred. One cannot help but admire the stealthy juxtaposition of feeling in these stories. There were times when the line between sadness and joy was blurred, moments when you cannot distinguish what you felt, moments of being. Saunders writes in an oddly adventurous prose, seemingly impersonal yet deeply perceptive in meaning, playful yet strangely insightful. I am taken aback, amazed by such ability, amazed by the power of language. The title story, the last one, left an impression that evoked tears. That rarely happens. But this collection is not perfect; some stories are stronger than others. But, then again, nothing is perfect. Life is not perfect. Some moments are happy, some are sad, some rarely, magnificently are both. We need them altogether.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    I wanted to like this one more than I did. I had never heard of the author until a friend recommended him; I then found his name popping up a lot as I read this collection. Saunders is a current literary darling, specializing in short stories, and has been generally very well-received. Tenth of December is a collection of ten short stories. Length varies dramatically, from a couple of pages to much longer. Saunders has been praised for his style; initially I took it to be a conceit of one of his I wanted to like this one more than I did. I had never heard of the author until a friend recommended him; I then found his name popping up a lot as I read this collection. Saunders is a current literary darling, specializing in short stories, and has been generally very well-received. Tenth of December is a collection of ten short stories. Length varies dramatically, from a couple of pages to much longer. Saunders has been praised for his style; initially I took it to be a conceit of one of his characters, but it's pretty consistent across the board. I liked it more when I thought it was character specific. As the pages went on it began to grow stale. Saunders' wit is supposedly his trademark. The three people who eventually recommended him to me all found him funny; I rarely did. I compare him to David Sedaris. Many people think David Sedaris is hilarious; I have a hard time getting past the dysfunction, so instead of making me laugh, Sedaris bums me out. I think something similar might be at work here. I frequently found Saunders depressing, and there wasn't an adequate payoff to make the experience feel worth it. Not that I didn't like any of them; a few were very good. By and large, though, I didn't enjoy most of my time with Saunders. Favorite stories from this collection: Escape From Spiderhead, Tenth of December Least favorites: Puppy, The Semplica Girl Diaries

  28. 4 out of 5

    Marchpane

    It was interesting to read Tenth of December and Pastoralia in close succession. The two collections were published 13 years apart and presumably the individual stories represent an even larger span of time. Both collections are recognisably ‘Saunders’ but they have a slightly different tone overall. Tenth of December seems more ‘grown up’ – the stories are more refined, more varied in terms of topics and characters, their structure more carefully crafted. Saunders is completely in control here, It was interesting to read Tenth of December and Pastoralia in close succession. The two collections were published 13 years apart and presumably the individual stories represent an even larger span of time. Both collections are recognisably ‘Saunders’ but they have a slightly different tone overall. Tenth of December seems more ‘grown up’ – the stories are more refined, more varied in terms of topics and characters, their structure more carefully crafted. Saunders is completely in control here, both of his words and the reader’s (emotional and intellectual) responses. Pastoralia on the other hand has a sort of messy exuberance; it’s bawdier and more playful. As a reader you’re just along for the crazy ride. Both books deliver, but in different ways, and I’m finding it impossible to say which one I prefer. Stand out stories for me in this one: ‘Tenth of December’, ‘Puppy’, and ‘Escape from Spiderhead’.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    3 and 1/2 stars Short story collections are generally a mixed grab bag, but this one seems particularly so, especially for someone like me who is not drawn to what I take to be Saunders' usual style (this is my first reading of him). The stories range from the heartfelt to the cold and smug: I loved the former and found the latter off-putting. A quick look at my updates will reveal that I liked more of the stories than I disliked. There were a couple I loved, but of a couple I felt the emperor was 3 and 1/2 stars Short story collections are generally a mixed grab bag, but this one seems particularly so, especially for someone like me who is not drawn to what I take to be Saunders' usual style (this is my first reading of him). The stories range from the heartfelt to the cold and smug: I loved the former and found the latter off-putting. A quick look at my updates will reveal that I liked more of the stories than I disliked. There were a couple I loved, but of a couple I felt the emperor was wearing no clothes -- though evidenced by the language in the stories I liked, it's obvious he can write well. The theme of American classism runs through most of the stories, with the 'haves' (those with a ridiculous amount of too-much) living near the 'have-nots' (some are working poor; some have 'enough,' even more than enough, though they compare themselves to the former). For any short-story lovers out there, try to read at least the title story: it's perfect.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jenne

    Me: Okay but I don't...like...short stories. Like at all. Book: Dude that is totally fine but just read like the first one. Me: fine Book: I STAB you in the face with my awesome!! Me: ..! Book: MY WORDS ARE LITERALLY TOUCHING YOUR BRAIN Me: FUCK YES Book: How about this last story?! Me: shh I am having feelings

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