NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY 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
Amazon Best Books of the Month, January 2013: George Saunders' first short-story collection in six years, Tenth of December is as profound and moving as it is entertaining. Saunders' wonderful ability to portray a character's inner monologue--the secret voices, the little fantasies, the inside jokes, the spots of sadness--might be his greatest talent as a writer. But he is also expert at parceling out details to hook the reader and nudge the story in whatever direction he wants it to go. While these stories are generally more straightforward than we’re used to seeing from this author, the turns they take are constantly surprising. Saunders is an American original, a writer gifted at expressing the irony and absurdity all around us and inside us, but his ultimate goal is to show us something deeper: Our lives are composed of genuine experiences that deserve to be taken seriously. --Chris Schluep
*Starred Review* Saunders, a self-identified disciple of Twain and Vonnegut, is hailed for the topsy-turvy, gouging satire in his three previous, keenly inventive short story collections. In the fourth, he dials the bizarreness down a notch to tune into the fantasies of his beleaguered characters, ambushing readers with waves of intense, unforeseen emotion. Saunders drills down to secret aquifers of anger beneath ordinary family life as he portrays parents anxious to defang their children but also to be better, more loving parents than their own. The title story is an absolute heart-wringer, as a pudgy, misfit boy on an imaginary mission meets up with a dying man on a frozen pond. In “Victory Lap,” a young-teen ballerina is princess-happy until calamity strikes, an emergency that liberates her tyrannized neighbor, Kyle, “the palest kid in all the land.” In “Home,” family friction and financial crises combine with the trauma of a court-martialed Iraq War veteran, to whom foe and ally alike murmur inanely, “Thank you for your service.” Saunders doesn’t neglect his gift for surreal situations. There are the inmates subjected to sadistic neurological drug experiments in “Escape from Spiderhead” and the living lawn ornaments in “The Semplica Girl Diaries.” These are unpredictable, stealthily funny, and complexly affecting stories of ludicrousness, fear, and rescue. --Donna Seaman
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product(What's this?)
Update: One story that was left out of this collection, "Fox 8: A Story," has been released as a Kindle Single. It's brilliant - very funny, but also touching.
George Saunders is my favorite writer, so this review is biased. An Amazon reviewer said these stories left him/her feeling disturbed and uncomfortable. That is exactly what I enjoy about them. I think that means that the writer is reaching the reader, and that something is being said in the stories.
Saunders' stories are great because they are in tune with the experience of living today. I find them very entertaining, but also cathartic, because they bring expression to things that I feel and experience but that few are able to express.
Flannery O'Connor wrote "The way to despair is to refuse to have any kind of experience, and the novel, of course, is a way to have experience." Great writing can be as affecting as experience, which can be uncomfortable and disturbing.
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product(What's this?)
I found it interesting that this book places the only two somewhat upbeat stories in the collection at the beginning and the end, as if the editor thought that doing this might help to disguise the unremitting darkness of the stories that make up most of the book. I'm afraid the effect is more along the lines of a gloom sandwich, in which the relatively upbeat slices of bread do little to mask the depressive filling.
Of course, my reaction is largely a matter of personal taste. I think George Saunders is a remarkable writer and a true artist, but for me, there's just too much darkness and ugliness in this collection to stomach.
Some notes on selected stories:
"Victory Lap" is the opening story, and therefor one of the two fairly upbeat pieces I mentioned. It indulges in an engaging playfulness with language (as do most of the stories in this collection, to some extent), but apart from that I found it a story with unrealistic characters in an unrealistic situation that comes to an unrealistic conclusion.
"Puppies" extends that playfulness with language into the realm of just-plain-hard-to-read. I was reminded of a recent quote from Booker Prize judge Peter Strothard, stating that literary works of art "have to offer a degree of resistance." This story offers resistance in spades, and in return for chewing through that resistance you get one of the most gruelingly dark stories I've ever read. In this story and a few others, it feels to me that Saunders is approaching outright sadism toward his characters.
"Escape from Spiderhead" is another example of this. It's a piece of dark-science-fiction-meets-literary-fiction of the sort that would have been at home in a "New Wave" SF anthology of the late 60s such as Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions. I think the darkness might be a bit too heavy even for Harlan Ellison's taste, however.
"Home" continues the grim and depressing tone, but for a change I felt it had a sense of genuine human life amidst the darkness. I found it reminiscent of Raymond Carver, though not distilled down to its concentrated 150-proof essence the way Carver would have done.
"Tenth of December" was selected for this year's Best American Short Stories, and I think it's the best piece in this book. It's the final story, and like "Victory Lap," somewhat less depressing than the bulk of the collection. It's also cleverly crafted and has two interesting main characters. But it's notable that one of the most cheerful stories in this book has a terminal cancer patient as one of its protagonists.
After reading this collection I have a lot of respect for Saunders as a writer, and I know from other stories of his that he can be somewhat upbeat and even comic. But from now on I'll approach everything he writes with a deep wariness, afraid that at any moment it might explode into a smothering pall of gloom and despair.Read more ›
Sometimes morbid, sometimes zany, often touching, and always original, the stories collected in Tenth of December are written in a light, conversational style -- typically the kind of conversation you'd have with someone who is a little dim -- that conceals their deeper meaning. Many of the characters are like the parents or children you're glad you never had.
My favorite story, "Victory Lap," begins in the mind of Alison, a fifteen-year-old girl whose internal commentary on Eleanor Roosevelt, her ethics teacher's husband's affair, her own ignorance, and the dorkiness of Kyle Boot is, to use Alison's favorite word, awesome. The story then shifts to the scattered mind of Kyle Boot (favorite word: "gar"), whose chance of pleasing his anal-retentive father is nil and whose thoughts are filled with imaginative curses that he would never dare say out loud. When Kyle sees a man trying to kidnap Alison, he must choose between intervening and finishing his chores. The story develops a new layer of oddness when we enter the mind of the kidnapper. The ending is surprisingly sweet as humor and horror give way to karma.
The title story is another standout. Robin is a pale, blubberish boy who invents his own martial arts system (Deadly Forearms) to fight the Nethers. Eber, old and rail-thin, no longer seems real to himself. Both Robin and Eber constantly engage in imagined conversations. When Robin spots Eber (thinking he may be a Nether) walking around a frozen pond, Robin makes it his heroic mission to deliver Eber's coat to him without realizing why Eber left the coat behind. The story is a bittersweet combination of humor and sorrow and inspiration.
In another close contender for my favorite story, Mikey comes "Home" from the war after a court-martial, just in time to watch his mother and her new boyfriend being evicted. The mother of his kids has taken up with a new boyfriend in his absence. His barely contained rage results in low-level violence, but his actions are inevitably greeted with the ubiquitous (and thus meaningless) phrase "Thank you for your service." None of that sounds amusing, but this serious story provokes unexpected laughter. It's better, I guess, to laugh than to cry.
I first read "Escape from Spiderhead" in The Best American Short Stories 2011. Saunders' futuristic take on chemically enhanced language and love was one of my favorite stories in that volume.
The remaining stories are all worth reading. More a vignette than a story, "Sticks" describes the way the narrator's father decorates a pole to commemorate Christmas, the Fourth of July, Veteran's Day, the Superbowl, Groundhog Day, an Earthquake in Chile, his wife's death, and, ultimately, his life. "Al Roosten" worries that noboby will bid on him at the anti-drug celebrity auction -- in fact, he worries about all sorts of things when his mind isn't buzzing with nonstop grandiose fantasies. A janitor in a medieval village is promoted to Pacing Guard after he witnesses his boss engaging in a sexual dalliance with another employee, a happy event that leads to "My Chivalric Fiasco" when he gets carried away with the role. The lives of two moms who are each doing their best, albeit in very different ways, intersect in "Puppy." Saunders takes a comical look at the power of positive thinking, in form of a memo from the boss, in "Exhortation."
Every story in Tenth of December is the product of a delightfully strange imagination, the work of an accomplished writer with a distinctive style. This is a collection of small gems that perfectly balance plot and character development. There isn't a dud in the bunch.Read more ›
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product(What's this?)
'Tenth of December' a short story collection by George Saunders, is, in a word, amazing! Very dark ironic humor, a unique and interesting style, and a collection of great short stories. I'm embarrassed that I have never heard of Mr. Saunders before, but I intend to rectify that mistake shortly, i'll be seeking out more of his work. I recommend very highly, with the one caveat that some of this material is pretty dark, so if you are not somehow who enjoys dark satire, than this may be a tough read. But for anyone else, what are you waiting for!!
George Saunders's political novella The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil was published by Riverhead Trade Paperbacks in September 2005. He is also the author of Pastoralia and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, both New York Times Notable Books, and The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, a New York Times children's bestseller. In 2000, The New Yorker named him one of the "Best Writers Under 40." He writes regularly for The New Yorker and Harper's, as well as Esquire, GQ, and The New York Times Magazine. He won a National Magazine Award for Fiction in 2004 and his work is included in Best American Short Stories 2005. He teaches at Syracuse University.
What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?
What do you mean by "Whispersync"? Whispersync on kindle eBooks works on any book you may buy from the Kindle store...so whether you're reading on your kindle, your iPad, your Kindle Fire, etc, you'll have your position synced between the various devices.