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Tenth of December: Stories Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 8, 2013
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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
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My personal favorites from this collection, though it's hard to find flaws in any of them, are "Victory Lap," which I almost gave up on at first, but now find absolutely fascinating, especially the way Saunders shifts first-person perspective. I think "Sticks" is perhaps one of the greatest pieces of flash fiction outside of maybe a few stories by Amy Hemple. I've never read anything like "Escape from Spiderhead" before, and though I didn't find the ending quite satisfying, it is one of the most creative pieces of short fiction I have ever read. And the title story is worth the price of the book by itself. I'm so glad I came across this collection and would recommend it to anyone who loves traditional short fiction and also appreciates someone taking tradition and moving it toward something a little post-modern.
Most recent customer reviews
Not sure just what this collection is about.
Clever in places but just plain confusing in others.Read more
This is book review 12/48 for the year – 10/24 for fiction; 2/24 for non-fiction. Rating: 4 out of 5 stars!Read more