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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 opener, â€œVictory Lap,â€ 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 â€œHome,â€ 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 killâ€”the unforgettable characters that populate the pages of Tenth of December are vividly and lovingly infused with Saundersâ€™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 Decemberâ€”through their manic energy, their focus on what is redeemable in human beings, and their generosity of spiritâ€”not only entertain and delight; they fulfill Chekhovâ€™s dictum that art should â€œprepare us for tenderness.â€ Advance praise for Tenth of December â€œTenth of December shows George Saunders at his most subversive, hilarious, and emotionally piercing. Few writers can encompass that range of adjectives, but Saunders is a true originalâ€”restlessly inventive, yet deeply humane.â€â€”Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prizeâ€“winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad â€œGeorge Saunders is a complete original, unlike anyone else, thank godâ€”and yet still he manages to be the rightful heir to three other complete American originalsâ€”Barthelme (the lyricism, the playfulness), Vonnegut (the outrage, the wit, the scope), and Twain (the common sense, the exasperation). There is no author I recommend to people more oftenâ€”for ten years Iâ€™ve urged George Saunders onto everyone and everyone. You want funny? Saunders is your man. You want emotional heft? Saunders again. You want stories that are actually about somethingâ €”stories that again and again get to the meat of matters of life and death and justice and country? Saunders. There is no one better, no one more essential to our national sense of self and sanity.â€â€”Dave Eggers, author of A Hologram for the King Praise for George Saunders â€œNot since Twain has America produced a satirist this funny.â€â€”Zadie Smith â€œGeorge Saunders makes the all-but-impossible look effortless. Weâ€™re lucky to have him.â€â€”Jonathan Franzen â€œAn astoundingly tuned voiceâ€”graceful, dark, authentic, and funnyâ€”telling just the kinds of stories we need to get us through these times.â€â€”Thomas Pynchon
About The Author MacArthur â€œGenius Grantâ€ fellow George Saunders is the acclaimed author of several collections of short stories, including Pastoralia and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, as well as a collection of essays and a book for children. He teaches in the creative writing program at Syracuse University.
Reviews The Washington Post - Jeff Turrentine
In one way or another, all the tales in Tenth of December, [Saunders's] amazing new collection of stories, are about the tragedy of separation. What distinguishes it from the three equally fine collections that have preceded itâ€¦is the added pinch of semi-sweet salvation, an ingredient most other satirists diligently avoid for fear of ruining their sourby-design recipes. The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
No one writes more powerfully than George Saunders about the lost, the unlucky, the disenfranchisedâ€¦If his earlier books reverberated with echoes of Nathanael West and Kurt Vonnegut, Mr. Saunders's latest offeringâ €¦seems to have more in common with Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio. There are still touches of surreal
weirdness hereâ€¦but for the most part the humor is more muted and the stories tend to pivot around loneliness, disappointment, frustration and the difficulty of connecting with other human beings. Although sentiment has always lurked beneath the antic, corrugated surface of Mr. Saunders's work, there is a new sympathy for his characters in these pages, an emphasis on how bad luck, poor judgment, lack of resources and family misfortune can snowball into violence or catastrophe. The New York Times Book Review - Gregory Cowles
In Tenth of December, [Saunders's] fourth and best collection, readers will encounter an abduction, a rape, a chemically induced suicide, the suppressed rage of a milquetoast or two, a veteran's post-traumatic impulse to burn down his mother's houseâ€”all of it buffeted by gusts of such merriment and tender regard and daffy good cheer that you realize only in retrospect how dark these morality tales really areâ€¦despite the dirty surrealism and cleareyed despair, Tenth of December never succumbs to depression. That's partly because of Saunders's relentless humorâ€¦But more substantially it's because of his exhilarating attention to language and his beatific generosity of spirit. Publishers Weekly
The title of Saunders's fourth collection doesn't reference any regularly observed holiday, but for the MacArthurcertified genius's fans, a new collection, his first in six years, is a cause to celebrate. Yet the 10 stories hereâ€”six of which ran in the New Yorkerâ€”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 Darkenfloxxâ„¢. 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) Boston Globe
George Saunders captures the fragmented rhythms, disjointed sensory input, and wildly absurd realities of the 21st century experience like no other writer. San Francisco Chronicle
It's tough to think of a living short-story writer - or even a dead one - who garners as much peer approval as George Saunders. Alice Munro, maybe, but that's about it. . . . It's Saunders whose name is both whispered in reverent tones and shouted from the rooftops by other authors. His sparkling new story collection Tenth of December demonstrates why. . . . Saunders uses humor to amplify tension rather than avoid it, and the results are superb. Many of the 10 stories are comfortable with making us uncomfortable. They go for the jugular instead of the funny bone, and they're capable of astounding, unnerving and delighting all at once. The prose is so smartly crafted throughout that it makes me want to go back and re-evaluate all of Saunders' previous books. But first I plan to rereread this new collection one more time. Kirkus Reviews
A new story collection from the most playful postmodernist since Donald Barthelme, with narratives that can be enjoyed on a number of different levels. Literature that takes the sort of chances that Saunders does is rarely as much fun as his is. Even when he is subverting convention, letting the reader know throughout that there is an authorial presence pulling the strings, that these characters and their lives don't exist beyond words, he seduces the reader with his warmth, humor and storytelling command. And these are very much stories of these times, filled
with economic struggles and class envy, with war and its effects, with drugs that serve as a substitute for deeper emotions (like love) and perhaps a cure (at least temporary) for what one of the stories calls "a sort of vast existential nausea." On the surface, many of these stories are genre exercises. "Escape from Spiderhead" has all the trappings of science fiction, yet culminates in a profound meditation on free will and personal responsibility. One story is cast as a manager's memo; another takes the form of a very strange diary. Perhaps the funniest and potentially the grimmest is "Home," which is sort of a Raymond Carver working-class gothic send-up. A veteran returns home from war, likely suffering from post-traumatic stress. His foulmouthed mother and her new boyfriend are on the verge of eviction. His wife and family are now shacking up with a new guy. His sister has crossed the class divide. Things aren't likely to end well. The opening story, "Victory Lap," conjures a provisional, conditional reality, based on choices of the author and his characters. "Is life fun or scary?" it asks. "Are people good or bad?" The closing title story, the most ambitious here, has already been anthologized in a couple of "best of" annuals: It moves between the consciousness of a young boy and an older man, who develop a lifesaving relationship. Nobody writes quite like Saunders.
None of these short stories appealed to me; none of the charecters are likeable and the details of their lives are mostly depressing. Since this reviewer is 81 years old and lives in the Northeast, he suggests you consult other reviews.
I’m not a whole-hearted fan of Youssarian, Vonnegut, Defoe or some other great observers of the human condition and circumstance, but George Saunders‘ writing offers me something a little different. Something I require in an author’s voice, just to finish the book. The sound of hope. If you are in need of a realistic adult voice: its observations on our lives and what we are putting forward for posterity, this is the book for you. Read it twice!
Yes.... these stories are strange,wierd....unreliable...you lose your footing ..you don't relate to these bizarre characters . You need a breath of fresh air after reading several of the stories. Exasperated, you put the book down and go to sleep.The next day you find yourself thinkiing about these sad, strange people and bam!! It hits you....you feel a painful knot in your chest, its compassion and worse its recognition. That's why he's a genius.
Read An Excerpt TENTH of DECEMBER The pale boy with unfortunate Prince Valiant bangs and cublike mannerisms hulked to the mudroom closet and requisitioned Dad's white coat. Then requisitioned the boots he'd spray-painted white. Painting the pellet gun white had been a no. That was a gift from Aunt Chloe. Every time she came over he had to haul it out so she could make a big stink about the wood grain. Today's assignation: walk to pond, ascertain beaver dam. Likely he would be detained. By that species that lived amongst the old rock wall. They were small but, upon emerging, assumed certain proportions. And gave chase. This was just their methodology. His aplomb threw them loops. He knew that. And reveled in it. He would turn, level the pellet gun, intone: Are you aware of the usage of this human implement?
Blam! They were Netherworlders. Or Nethers. They had a strange bond with him. Sometimes for whole days he would just nurse their wounds. Occasionally, for a joke, he would shoot one in the butt as it fled. Who henceforth would limp for the rest of its days. Which could be as long as an additional nine million years. Safe inside the rock wall, the shot one would go, Guys, look at my butt. As a group, all would look at Gzeemon's butt, exchanging sullen glances of: Gzeemon shall indeed be limping for the next nine million years, poor bloke. Because yes: Nethers tended to talk like that guy in Mary Poppins. Which naturally raised some mysteries as to their ultimate origin here on Earth. Detaining him was problematic for the Nethers. He was wily. Plus could not fit through their rock-wall opening. When they tied him up and went inside to brew their special miniaturizing potion--Wham!-- he would snap their antiquated rope with a move from his self-invented martial arts system, Toi Foi, a.k.a., Deadly Forearms. And place at their doorway an implacable rock of suffocation, trapping them inside. Later, imagining them in their death throes, taking pity on them, he would come back, move the rock. Blimey, one of them might say from withal. Thanks, guv'nor. You are indeed a worthy adversary. Sometimes there would be torture. They would make him lie on his back looking up at the racing clouds while they tortured him in ways he could actually take. They tended to leave his teeth alone. Which was lucky. He didn't even like to get a cleaning. They were dunderheads in that manner. They never messed with his peen and never messed with his fingernails. He'd just abide there, infuriating them with his snow angels. Sometimes, believing it their coup de graĂŒâ€šce, not realizing he'd heard this since time in memorial from certain in-school cretins, they'd go, Wow, we didn't even know Robin could be a boy's name. And chortle their Nether laughs. Today he had a feeling that the Nethers might kidnap Suzanne Bledsoe, the new girl in homeroom. She was from Montreal. He just loved the way she talked. So, apparently, did the Nethers, who planned to use her to repopulate their depleted numbers and bake various things they did not know how to bake. All suited up now, NASA. Turning awkwardly to go out the door. Affirmative. We have your coordinates. Be careful out there, Robin. Whoa, cold, dang. Duck thermometer read ten. And that was without windchill. That made it fun. That made it real. A green Nissan was parked where Poole dead-ended into the soccer...
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