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Tenth of December: Stories

by

Tenth of December: Stories Cover

 

Awards

Staff Pick

Clever, nuanced, and weird, Tenth of December is a short story collection that manages to venture into uncomfortable places in a very entertaining way. Saunders explores questions of morality and personal responsibility with a lightness of touch and an irresistible charm — while he may create narrators that seem shortsighted or foolish at times, he clearly has affection for all his characters. Standouts in the collection include "Victory Lap," following two adolescent kids whose fight or flight reactions get put to the test, "Home," a heart-wrenching portrait of a shell-shocked veteran, and the dystopian tale "Escape from Spiderhead."
Recommended by Renee P., Powells.com

The fact that I read this all the way back in January and it still immediately jumped to mind as my favorite book of the year is a testament to the lingering power of every single one of these stories. You'll laugh until you cry, and vice versa — both reactions are George Saunders specialties. And upon completion, each story will have you looking at the world around you with a newfound sense of wonderment. It almost feels redundant to single this collection out after the year it's had, but consider this one last imploration to believe the hype.
Recommended by Nathan W., Powells.com

The stories in Tenth of December are as entertaining as they are important. Even when they are set in a slightly more dystopian and bizarre version of our own world, the stories say a great deal about our culture and the way people are now. Saunders is the master of modern short fiction, and this may be his finest book yet. And, perhaps most importantly, this book was so much fun to read that I couldn't put it down.
Recommended by Jeremy F., Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.”

Review:

"The title of Saunders's fourth collection doesn't reference any regularly observed holiday, but for the MacArthur-certified genius's fans, a new collection, his first in six years, is a cause to celebrate. Yet the 10 stories here — six of which ran in the New Yorker — 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 Darkenfloxx. 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)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review:

"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." Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad

Review:

"George Saunders is a complete original, unlike anyone else, thank god — and yet still he manages to be the rightful heir to three other complete American originals — 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 often — for ten years I'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 something — 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." Dave Eggers, author of A Hologram for the King

Review:

"Saunders's satiric vision of America is dark and demented; it's also ferocious and funny." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Review:

"An astoundingly tuned voice — graceful, dark, authentic, and funny — telling just the kinds of stories we need to get us through these times." Thomas Pynchon

About the Author

MacArthur “Genius Grant” 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.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 4 comments:

lukas, March 23, 2013 (view all comments by lukas)
An egregiously praised short story collection from a so-called "genius grant" recipient. If he's a genius, any schmuck can be.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(3 of 17 readers found this comment helpful)
cthoop, March 20, 2013 (view all comments by cthoop)
I'd been hearing the praise for George Saunders for years, and with the release of Tenth Of December I became a convert!

This collection of stories is fantastic. A look at some modern issues through such a unique lens, busting into the hilarious and absurd so quickly you can't help but wonder if you've missed a page or two. I know this phrase gets thrown a lot more than it should, but I am honestly of the opinion that Saunders has a voice unlike any other.

After finishing this book, I've devoured everything Saunders I could find, and he quickly has jumped the rungs of my favorite writer ladder almost overnight.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(4 of 6 readers found this comment helpful)
P.M. Bradshaw, March 6, 2013 (view all comments by P.M. Bradshaw)
I picked this book up because I’d read four or five glowing reviews, one of which saying it was the ‘best book you’ll read this year.’

It was, in fact, the WORST book I’ve read in a long, long while.

The reviews always seemed to use the word “hilarious,” which just stumped me. What part was hilarious? The poor woman who murders animals because she thinks her husband probably wants her to? The retarded child they keep chained in their backyard? The Iraq vet who’s angry and confused?

Yeah, it was a hilarious read (please note, SARCASM).

It came off like that English teacher everyone had that always talked about writing, but cannot do it himself (or self-published and ended up with 400 copies of his poetry chapbook in his trunk).

Filled with unlikable characters, boring plots, and muddled storytelling, I hated it. This was the first book in a long time that I read in one day; not because I couldn’t put it down, but because I wanted to just get through it and put it behind me.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(7 of 10 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 4 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780812993806
Subtitle:
Stories
Author:
Saunders, George
Publisher:
Random House
Subject:
Stories (single author)
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20130131
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
8.52 x 5.88 x 1 in 0.9 lb

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Tenth of December: Stories Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$17.50 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Random House - English 9780812993806 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Clever, nuanced, and weird, Tenth of December is a short story collection that manages to venture into uncomfortable places in a very entertaining way. Saunders explores questions of morality and personal responsibility with a lightness of touch and an irresistible charm — while he may create narrators that seem shortsighted or foolish at times, he clearly has affection for all his characters. Standouts in the collection include "Victory Lap," following two adolescent kids whose fight or flight reactions get put to the test, "Home," a heart-wrenching portrait of a shell-shocked veteran, and the dystopian tale "Escape from Spiderhead."

"Staff Pick" by ,

The fact that I read this all the way back in January and it still immediately jumped to mind as my favorite book of the year is a testament to the lingering power of every single one of these stories. You'll laugh until you cry, and vice versa — both reactions are George Saunders specialties. And upon completion, each story will have you looking at the world around you with a newfound sense of wonderment. It almost feels redundant to single this collection out after the year it's had, but consider this one last imploration to believe the hype.

"Staff Pick" by ,

The stories in Tenth of December are as entertaining as they are important. Even when they are set in a slightly more dystopian and bizarre version of our own world, the stories say a great deal about our culture and the way people are now. Saunders is the master of modern short fiction, and this may be his finest book yet. And, perhaps most importantly, this book was so much fun to read that I couldn't put it down.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "The title of Saunders's fourth collection doesn't reference any regularly observed holiday, but for the MacArthur-certified genius's fans, a new collection, his first in six years, is a cause to celebrate. Yet the 10 stories here — six of which ran in the New Yorker — 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 Darkenfloxx. 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)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "George Saunders is a complete original, unlike anyone else, thank god — and yet still he manages to be the rightful heir to three other complete American originals — 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 often — for ten years I'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 something — 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."
"Review" by , "Saunders's satiric vision of America is dark and demented; it's also ferocious and funny."
"Review" by , "An astoundingly tuned voice — graceful, dark, authentic, and funny — telling just the kinds of stories we need to get us through these times."
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