An Early Career as a Geophysical Engineer: Background information when reading Tenth of December

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Tenth of December

Stories

by George Saunders

Tenth of December by George Saunders
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2013, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2014, 288 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
An Early Career as a Geophysical Engineer

Print Review

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 - including an extended stay in Sumatra - doing site evaluation for oil drilling.

During this somewhat isolated and lonely time, Saunders began reading literature more widely and was introduced to the work of other fiction authors beyond Rand - notably Tom Wolfe, Kurt Vonnegut, and Ernest Hemingway. Soon he started down a different path, one that would eventually land him at the MFA program at Syracuse University, where he still teaches in the creative writing program. His first unpublished works of fiction were casually motivated and unapologetically imitative, as he studied other authors' works and drew inspiration from them. Now, though, his work is consistently called inventive and original, never derivative.

Saunders believes that his scientific background is responsible for much of what critics have labeled "originality" or "experimentation" in his fiction. In another review, he describes himself as "working inefficiently, with flawed tools, in a mode I don't have sufficient background to really understand. Like if you put a welder to designing dresses." Saunders also credits his engineering work experience with broadening his knowledge of injustice, developing his opinions about the United States' place in the world, and deepening his moral stance and political motivations in both life and literature. Saunders has noted, remarking on his unconventional background in relation to his MFA classmates, "Fiction is open to whoever comes in the door, as long as you come in energetically, and so I had a feeling there was room for me." Readers will feel themselves fortunate that there is, indeed, more than enough room for Saunders's idiosyncratic talents.

Photograph by Caitlin Saunders

Article by Norah Piehl

This article was originally published in January 2013, and has been updated for the January 2014 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Hillbilly Elegy
    Hillbilly Elegy
    by J.D. Vance
    In this illuminating memoir, Vance recounts his trajectory from growing up a "hillbilly" in ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dark Flood Rises
    The Dark Flood Rises
    by Margaret Drabble
    Margaret Drabble, the award-winning novelist and literary critic who is approaching eighty and ...
  • Book Jacket: All Our Wrong Todays
    All Our Wrong Todays
    by Elan Mastai
    You need a great deal of time to read All Our Wrong Todays, but don't let that put you off. ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Atomic Weight of Love
by Elizabeth J. Church

In the spirit of The Aviator's Wife, this resonant debut spans from World War II through the Vietnam War.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Our Short History
    by Lauren Grodstein

    Lauren Grodstein breaks your heart, then miraculously pieces it back together so it's stronger, than before.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Mercies in Disguise
    by Gina Kolata

    A story of hope, a family's genetic destiny, and the science that rescued them.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

All my major works have been written in prison...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

O My D B

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -