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Tenth of December: Stories Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 8, 2013
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
George Saunders is a great writer, but this collection was just too depressing for me. I may revisit it later, but this is not what I care to read on gloomy winter days. Read morePublished 12 days ago by Miz_Jen
This latest collection (latest in that it is the most current one I have read) sort of tears me asunder as far as my feelings toward it go. Read morePublished 19 days ago by D. Blankenship
The stories are challenging and clever. The settings are well drawn and the treatment of the characters is sympathetic. It left me curious to read more of Saunders' work.Published 28 days ago by Jake Stanley
It is the language that draws me into each story at the start, but the narrative ramps up, pulls me forward, like swinging at the park. Read morePublished 1 month ago by mrsmetaphor
Though I had not heard of George Saunders, I received this collection as a gift from my children last Christmas, and found it a delight full of warmth and surprises. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Michael J. Coursey
I loved this collection of short stories. My taste runs a little on the unusual side, and I like the weirdness of it. Read morePublished 1 month ago by John P