People - The New York Times Magazine - NPR - Entertainment Weekly - New York - The Telegraph - BuzzFeed - Kirkus Reviews - BookPage - Shelf Awareness 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. Read more...
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People - The New York Times Magazine - NPR - Entertainment Weekly - New York - The Telegraph - BuzzFeed - Kirkus Reviews - BookPage - Shelf Awareness 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." NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
"The best book you'll read this year."--The New York Times Magazine
"A feat of inventiveness . . . This eclectic collection never ceases to delight with its at times absurd, surreal, and darkly humorous look at very serious subjects. . . . Saunders makes you feel as though you are reading fiction for the first time."--Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner
"The best short-story writer in English--not 'one of, ' not 'arguably, ' but the Best."--Mary Karr, Time
"A visceral and moving act of storytelling . . . No one writes more powerfully than George Saunders about the lost, the unlucky, the disenfranchised."--Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Saunders's startling, dreamlike stories leave you feeling newly awakened to the world."--People
"It's no exaggeration to say that short story master George Saunders helped change the trajectory of American fiction."--The Wall Street Journal
GEORGE SAUNDERS WAS NAMED ONE OF THE 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE IN THE WORLD BY TIME MAGAZINE
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-11-05
- Reviewer: Staff
The title of Saunders's fourth collection doesn't reference any regularly observed holiday, but for the MacArthur-certified genius's fans, a new collection, his first in six years, is a cause to celebrate. Yet the 10 stories here—six of which ran in the New Yorker—might make readers won over by earlier, irony-laced absurdities like Pastoralia's "Sea Oak" or corporate nightmares like "CommComm" from In Persuasion Nation question whether they know Saunders as well as they think they do. Yes, "Puppy" is about a maniacally upbeat mother on a "Family Mission" to adopt a dog only to discover the dog owner's son chained to a tree in the backyard "via some sort of doohicky." Yes, "Escape from Spiderhead" is about evil experiments to make love and take love away using drugs with names like Darkenfloxx™. But readers expecting zany escapism will be humbled by the pathos on display in stories like "Home," where a soldier returns to his humble origins. "Victory Lap" features a disarming case of child kidnapping, and "The Semplica Girl Diaries" is a heartbreaking chronicle of two months of changeable fortune in the life of a lower-middle-class paterfamilias of modest expectation ("graduate college, win Pam, get job, make babies, forget feeling of special destiny"). Eventually, a suspicion creeps in that, behind Saunders's comic talents, he might be the most compassionate writer working today. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM. (Jan. 8)
The humanity of Saunders' absurdism
George Saunders is one of the masters of the difficult art of the short story. In his latest collection, Tenth of December, wounded characters confront situations that range from slightly skewed to downright Orwellian.
In “Victory Lap,” a teenaged boy prevents a catastrophe by breaking all the rules his smothering, control-freak parents have laid down for him. In “Escape From Spiderhead,” prisoners are subjected to high-tech Milgramesque experiments where their emotions are manipulated, effortlessly, by intravenous drugs. The point of the exercise is uncertain to the prisoners, the experimenters and the reader, and the story is so matter of fact in its depiction of horror that the reader almost wishes she’d never read it. This is not the last story in which impossible but cleverly named psychotropic drugs will mess with the insides of people’s heads.
Saunders is a brilliant observer of weirdness—and a fierce believer in human connections.
Most of the stories are narrated by men, or have men as their protagonists. The boys are outsiders, either too fat or too nerdy, and many of the men have soul-crushing and even bizarre jobs. In “Exhortation,” a director urges his staff to keep up their “positive energy” for some task that has a whiff of both uselessness and nefariousness about it, lest their shady overlords grow extremely displeased.
At last, the reader comes to the title story. It’s about an unpopular schoolboy, a dying man and a frozen lake. A masterpiece that reveals the power of stubborn love and redemption, it seems, in a strange way, to make the suffering in the other stories worthwhile. In Tenth of December, Saunders proves that he’s both a brilliant observer of weirdness and a fierce believer in the connections that keep people going.