Summary and book reviews of Tenth of December by George Saunders

Tenth of December

Stories

By George Saunders

Tenth of December
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Jan 2013,
    272 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2014,
    288 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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About this Book

Book Summary

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."

Victory Lap

Three days shy of her fifteenth birthday, Alison Pope paused at the top of the stairs.

Say the staircase was marble. Say she descended and all heads turned. Where was {special one}? Approaching now, bowing slightly, he exclaimed, How can so much grace be contained in one small package? Oops. Had he said small package? And just stood there? Broad princelike face totally bland of expression? Poor thing! Sorry, no way, down he went, he was definitely not {special one}.

What about this guy, behind Mr. Small Package, standing near the home entertainment center? With a thick neck of farmer integrity yet tender ample lips, who, placing one hand on the small of her back, whispered, Dreadfully sorry you had to endure that bit about the small package just now. Let us go stand on the moon. Or, uh, in the moon. In the moonlight.

Had he said, Let us go stand on the moon? If so, she would have to be like, {eyebrows up}. And if no wry acknowledgment was forthcoming, be like, Uh, I am not ...

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Some may wonder what George Saunders, the brilliant and often bitingly satirical author whose work largely came of age during the George W. Bush administration, would find to focus on in this nominally less politically fraught time. It turns out that to a writer for whom humanity’s moral imperatives - indeed the very essence of humanity itself - is at the center of his attention, there’s still more than enough material to populate a devastatingly insightful collection like Tenth of December.   (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

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Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Eventually, a suspicion creeps in that, behind Saunders's comic talents, he might be the most compassionate writer working today.

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...Nobody writes quite like Saunders.

Author Blurb Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad
Tenth 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 original - restlessly inventive, yet deeply humane.

Author Blurb Dave Eggers, author of A Hologram for the King
George Saunders is a complete original, unlike anyone else, thank god ... for ten years I've urged George Saunders onto everyone and everyone....There is no one better, no one more essential to our national sense of self and sanity.

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An Early Career as a Geophysical Engineer

George SaundersGeorge Saunders is well known for his inventive use of language; perhaps his willingness to explore and exploit the forms and function of language derives in part from his earlier career, as a geophysical engineer. Saunders credits his early exposure to the works of Ayn Rand (some of the first fiction he recalls reading) with his decision to enter the field of engineering in college. "I read [her books] and I thought that's what I want to do," Saunders said in an interview with Guernica, "I want to be one of the earth movers, the scientific people who power the world. And I don't want to be one of these lisping liberal artsy leeches." Soon after getting his degree from the Colorado School of Mines, Saunders was traveling the world - ...

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