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Rated 3.94
18,825 ratings

Tenth of December

By: George Saunders

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Imprint: Random House

Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9780812993806

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On Sale: | Pages: 272

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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, “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.”Advance praise for Tenth of December   “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   “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 KingFrom the Hardcover edition.
Throughout these stories, Saunders is inventive, thoughtful and very funny. He is also compassionate and tender toward his usually hilarious characters.... I seldom encounter heroes like these in the other books that I read or movies I see. Saunders is especially worth reading now, when American politics risk becoming a soulless landscape of fiscal cliffs and debt ceilings. To populate that bleak scene with parents, brothers and sisters and children, turn to “Tenth of December.” I can't imagine a timelier book.
—San Antonio Express-News
The two best stories in TENTH OF DECEMBER, George Saunders's stunning new collection, are dystopian fiction at its best.... You wouldn't expect a story with this wonderfully strange premise to have moments of tenderness, but Saunders surprises us by turning material that could have been lurid into something profound, even hopeful.... Saunders's frequent use of interior monologue and multiple perspectives gives the stories a complexity they otherwise would have lacked.... This is one of the most accomplished books of short fiction you will ever read.
—Bookreporter.com
...[Saunder's] fourth and best collection... Yet despite the dirty surrealism and cleareyed despair, “Tenth of December” never succumbs to depression. That's partly because of Saunders's relentless humor; detractors may wonder if they made a wrong turn and ended up in the land of the joke after all. But more substantially it's because of his exhilarating attention to language and his beatific generosity of spirit.
—New York Times
Much of the emotional power of George Saunders' short stories comes from his uncanny knack for combining resonantly believable reality with the utterly strange. That's certainly one of the strengths (and there are many) of Tenth of December... Saunders is a terrific writer. The 10 stories in Tenth of December add up to one of the best and most original collections I've read.... Tenth of December is filled with the bizarre and the believable, with terror and humor, with mortality and redemption, sometimes all in the same story. Saunders is an extraordinary writer at the top of his powers, and this is a book not to be missed.
—St. Petersburg Times
Reading George Saunders' stories in the new collection “The Tenth of December” is like one of those dreams when you're in your own house, but things are strangely askew and subtly changed; you're never quite sure where you are, and the view from the window isn't quite what you expect it to be, but it's exhilarating.
—Seattle Times
Saunders is definitely an acquired taste. Some critics have even used the word "weird" to describe his distinctive stories and style. They also have used "innovative," "brilliant," "profound," "provocative," "unsettling," "insightful," "satiric" and "darkly hilarious." Add "manic" to describe this newest collection of 10 tales. He continues to be a master of his craft, offering up the common man in all his hopes and despair.
—USA Today
Saunders lets the emotional throttle all the way out in the beautiful title story, which closes the collection. Featuring a terminally ill man contemplating suicide by exposure and the young, overweight boy who tries to save him, it is both brave and tender in looking at how we face death - even as it stares down all that's ugly to affirm the value of life. While Saunders is often compared with Vonnegut, this magnificent collection reminds me of Joyce's "Dubliners" - which also combines hard-hitting satire with unabashed feeling - in stories that collectively trace the same arc, from childhood's lost innocence to a final, hard-won redemption in the snow.
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
If his earlier books reverberated with echoes of Nathanael West and Kurt Vonnegut, Mr. Saunders's latest offering, “Tenth of December,” seems to have more in common with Sherwood Anderson's “Winesburg, Ohio.”... There are still touches of surreal weirdness here...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.... Regarding the stunning title story in this volume, which itself makes this book worth reading, it's a deeply affecting tale about the collision of two lives... It's a measure of Mr. Saunders's talents as a writer — his brassy language, his narrative instincts, his bone-deep understanding of his characters — that he takes what might have been a contrived and sentimental parable and turns it into a visceral and moving act of storytelling.
—New York Times
Recent collections by Brian Evenson and Steven Millhauser and Jim Shepard and Mary Caponegro provide ample evidence that the story form is enjoying a golden age, but 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. The best stories here - and they're all good, mind you - put the technique of free indirect speech to tremendous use.... Throughout this collection, Saunders uses humor to amplify tension rather than avoid it, and the results are superb. Many of the 10 stories in "Tenth of December" 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.
—San Francisco Chronicle
"Tenth of December," the latest collection of short fiction by George Saunders, revives the unique comedic poignancy of his best early work and adds even greater emotional depth.... The pace of the overall book is a little uneven, with short interludes in the first half that would have been welcome between the longer stories toward the end.... Nevertheless, one thing is certain while reading most of these stories: this man does what he wants, and he does it better than anyone else writing short fiction today. The sentences are electric, never mannered, and the stories are entirely real, no matter how zany the premise.
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
In one way or another, all the tales in “Tenth of December,” [Saunder's] amazing new collection of stories, are about the tragedy of separation. What distinguishes it from the three equally fine collections that have preceded it...is the added pinch of semi-sweet salvation, an ingredient most other satirists diligently avoid for fear of ruining their sour-by-design recipes.... Each one of these is as funny and off-kilter and formally ingenious as you want a Saunders story to be, but each one is also something else: unabashedly tender. The author has often been compared to Kurt Vonnegut, whom he regards as a major influence, and the comparison is apt for many reasons. But even Vonnegut's biggest fans acknowledge his cynicism: The eyewitness to the bombing of Dresden never fully forgave humanity for it and many other 20th-century sins. Saunders, by contrast, hasn't given up on us all — not yet.
—Washington Post
With so much arch overlooking of characters small and smaller, it's nothing short of amazing that Saunders shows us how to care -- about the trailer-trash mother whose outsized love is not enough to protect her damaged child from the "protection" of others, about the tiny rotund businessman-about-town competing in a celebrity auction, about the father whose diary documenting family life in another familiar but not quite futuristic world exposes the void gaping under our supposed normality. "Human speech," Flaubert went on in "Madame Bovary," "is like a cracked pot on which we beat out rhythms for bears to dance to when we are striving to make music that will wring tears from the stars." Saunders' music might well move the heavens as well as the bears.
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
George Saunders has never published a novel. This hasn't imperiled his chances of securing a place alongside Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut, two sharp-witted literary greats to whom he is often compared. Keen readers open to the unusual are drawn to his disturbingly humorous short fiction, which peels away the lies and rationalizations of our self-medicated, corporate-controlled, pop culture-driven society. In his new book, Tenth of December, the stakes are high; questions of good and evil predominate, as Saunders' characters struggle to maintain their humanity in the face of darkness.
—Miami Herald
"Tenth of December" is not a perfect collection; "Exhortation," written in the form of an office memo, never rises above its gimmick, and "My Chivalric Fiasco," which unfolds in a medieval reenactment center, is a pale imitation of his earlier work. Still, what the book at its best achieves is a vivid synergy between the ridiculous culture we have built for ourselves and the heartbreak and longing of our inner lives.
—Los Angeles Times
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