Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tenth of December by George Saunders

When it debuted on the New York Times best seller list at #3, it was remarked back in January of 2013 that this will be the best book that you will read all year. I am not sure that I can echo that praise, but Tenth of December  is a unique book and a thought-provoking read. The stories are diverse and will leave the reader at times scratching his or her head.

I am typically not a short story reader, but since Saunders was lecturing for the Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures Literary Evening program, I was compelled to revisit the genre. I had forgotten how satisfying it can be. The stories have a dark element to them -  "Victory Lap" is about a teenage abduction - but Saunders manages to avoid the depressing aftertaste by bringing a keen sense of humor to them. Each of the ten stories addresses a distinct aspect of the human condition and comes to a fulfilling ending. 

Short stories are hard to write. The author must compress his or her thoughts into a limited discourse. Each word has to have meaning beyond the word itself. It must convey a feeling, a thought, and an action. George Saunders has accomplished all of this in his collection. I will look forward to future works. He says that he works on multiple stories at one time. It may be a while before the next book is released. And so, until that time, when I want a short and challenging read, I will return to Tenth of December.

George Saunders autographing Tenth of December

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