Tenth of December, by George Saunders
Vista Book Group: Tenth of December
The Vista Book Group met in July to discuss Tenth of December, a collection of short stories by George Saunders, which was a National Book Award finalist and named to several Best Book of the Year lists for 2013 including the New York Times Book Review, NPR, Entertainment Weekly, and Kirkus Reviews.
From the Publisher:
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.
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.”
The collection consists of ten short stories, the last of which lends the book its title, with one short story being the shortest one I’ve ever read at only a page and a half. Our favorite stories in the collection included Escape from Spiderhead, Tenth of December, Home, Chivalric Fiasco, Al Roosten and Semplica Girl Diaries. Many of the stories have a kind of sci-fi aspect to them which many of us enjoyed, especially the dystopia like Escape from Spiderhead. Themes that are the foundation of the book are family dysfunction, loss of control or in some case too much control, and a great deal of angst. There is also some very dark humor in this book, which is both disturbing and hilarious. Many of the stories deal with moral questions, which lead to some very interesting discussions.
Vista Book Group rated Tenth of December 3.3 out of 5 stars. We found this book very disturbing, a little weird, and a lot funny. It is a challenging read and the stories and themes definitely make for a lively discussion. The publisher and several critics call Tenth of December one of Saunders' “most accessible short story collections yet”, which made us wonder what his other writings have in store for a reader. Check out the BookForum article, “Beyond Good and Evil”, linked below for a great write up about Tenth of December.
After reading and discussing Tenth of December, many of us concluded the author must be an extremely interesting individual and well worth going to see speak. If you reach the same conclusion after reading the book, then you are in luck because Mr. Saunders is scheduled to speak at the University of South Carolina’s Open Book Series on March 18, 2015. See the link below for information on USC 2015 Open Book Series.
Some author-a-likes that we came up with were:
Some read-a-likes include:
CivilWarLand in Bad Decline : Stories and a Novella, by George Saunders
Congratulations, By the Way : Some Thoughts on Kindness , by George Saunders
In Persuasion Nation : Stories, by George Saunders
The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, by George Saunders
Welcome to the Monkey House, by Kurt Vonnegut
Vampires in the Lemon Grove, by Karen Russell
His Illegal Self, by Peter Carey
Birds Without Wings, by Louis De Bernieres
Vista Book Group will be meeting on Wednesday, August 27, in the Film and Sound Café, from 6-7:30 to discuss A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki. We still have book group copies available if you’d like to pick one up. Inquire at the Research desk on the second level of the Main Library.
Amazon Amazon Says:
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Pe more...
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY People • The New York Times Magazine • NPR • Entertainment Weekly • New York • The Telegraph • BuzzFeed • Kirkus Reviews • BookPage • Shelf Awareness 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.” NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER “The best book you’ll read this year.”—The New York Times Magazine “A feat of inventiveness . . . This eclectic collection never ceases to delight with its at times absurd, surreal, and darkly humorous look at very serious subjects. . . . Saunders makes you feel as though you are reading fiction for the first time.”—Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner “The best short-story writer in English—not ‘one of,’ not ‘arguably,’ but the Best.”—Mary Karr, Time “A visceral and moving act of storytelling . . . No one writes more powerfully than George Saunders about the lost, the unlucky, the disenfranchised.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times “Saunders’s startling, dreamlike stories leave you feeling newly awakened to the world.”—People “It’s no exaggeration to say that short story master George Saunders helped change the trajectory of American fiction.”—The Wall Street Journal GEORGE SAUNDERS WAS NAMED ONE OF THE 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE IN THE WORLD BY TIME MAGAZINE less...
Amazon Amazon Says:
Gappers will get your goat. Literally. If you don't brush them off and return them to the ocean, whence they arrive every day, these bright orange, many-eyed creatures will co more...
Gappers will get your goat. Literally. If you don't brush them off and return them to the ocean, whence they arrive every day, these bright orange, many-eyed creatures will cover your goats, and the goats will stop giving milk. In a village called Frip, goat's milk was the entire economy. Three families lived there--the Romos, the Ronsens, and a little girl named Capable and her widowed father, who wanted everything to remain the same. It didn't. One day, the Gappers, despite an average IQ of 3.7 (±.02), decided for a good reason to concentrate on Capable's goats. Oh, how the Romos and Ronsens turned their backs on the gapper-ridden Capable! Oh, how they indeed lorded it over her! What kinds of creatures are we, one wonders, when such selfishness so often springs up so spontaneously among us? And, given the coldness of her neighbors' shoulders, what will Capable do about her Gapper plague, as her share of the economy dries up? Literally. The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, with a brilliant story by award-ridden short-story master George Saunders and fifty-two haunting and hilarious illustrations by bestseller-plagued artist/author Lane Smith, answers that question. In doing so it tells a tale as ancient as the Bible and as modern as a memo from the Federal Reserve Board. And funnier than both--which isn't saying all that much, admittedly. You don't get to laugh and gaze in visual awe and pleasure all that often when the Golden Rule comes under such serious attack and such staunch defense as it did in Frip. An adult story for children, a children's story for adults, an earthlings' story for aliens, an oceanside fable for the landlocked, a capitalist tool for anarchists, a fish story for loaves, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip represents the classic instant of two young geniuses colliding and colluding. The result is--what else?--an instant classic! less...
Amazon Amazon Says:
Welcome to the Monkey House is a collection of Kurt Vonnegut’s shorter works. Originally printed in publications as diverse as The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fic more...
Welcome to the Monkey House is a collection of Kurt Vonnegut’s shorter works. Originally printed in publications as diverse as The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and The Atlantic Monthly, these superb stories share Vonnegut’s audacious sense of humor and extraordinary range of creative vision. less...
Amazon Amazon Says:
From the author of the New York Times best seller Swamplandia!—a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize—a magical new collection of stories that showcases Karen Russell’s gifts more...
From the author of the New York Times best seller Swamplandia!—a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize—a magical new collection of stories that showcases Karen Russell’s gifts at their inimitable best. A dejected teenager discovers that the universe is communicating with him through talismanic objects left behind in a seagull’s nest. A community of girls held captive in a silk factory slowly transmute into human silkworms, spinning delicate threads from their own bellies, and escape by seizing the means of production for their own revolutionary ends. A massage therapist discovers she has the power to heal by manipulating the tattoos on a war veteran’s lower torso. When a group of boys stumble upon a mutilated scarecrow bearing an uncanny resemblance to the missing classmate they used to torment, an ordinary tale of high school bullying becomes a sinister fantasy of guilt and atonement. In a family’s disastrous quest for land in the American West, the monster is the human hunger for acquisition, and the victim is all we hold dear. And in the collection’s marvelous title story—an unforgettable parable of addiction and appetite, mortal terror and mortal love—two vampires in a sun-drenched lemon grove try helplessly to slake their thirst for blood. Karen Russell is one of today’s most celebrated and vital writers—honored in The New Yorker’s list of the twenty best writers under the age of forty, Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists, and the National Book Foundation’s five best writers under the age of thirty-five. Her wondrous new work displays a young writer of superlative originality and invention coming into the full range and scale of her powers. less...
Amazon Amazon Says:
Louis de Bernières’s last novel, Corelli’s Mandolin, was met with the highest praise: “Behind every page,” said Richard Russo, “we sense its author’s intelligence more...
Louis de Bernières’s last novel, Corelli’s Mandolin, was met with the highest praise: “Behind every page,” said Richard Russo, “we sense its author’s intelligence, wit, heart, imagination, and wisdom. This is a great book.” A. S. Byatt placed the author in “the direct line that runs through Dickens and Evelyn Waugh.” Now, de Bernières gives us his long-awaited new novel. Huge, resonant, lyrical, filled with humor and pathos, a novel about the political and personal costs of war, and of love–between men and women, between friends, between those who are driven to be enemies. It is the story of a small coastal town in South West Anatolia in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire told in the richly varied voices of the people–Christians and Muslims of Turkish and Greek and Armenian descent–whose lives are rooted there, intertwined for untold years. There is Iskander, the potter and local font of proverbial wisdom; Karatavuk–Iskander’s son–and Mehmetçik, childhood friends whose playground stretches across the hills above the town, where Mehmetçik teaches the illiterate Karatavuk to write Turkish in Greek letters. There are Father Kristoforos and Abdulhamid Hodja, holy men of different faiths who greet each other as “Infidel Efendi”; Rustem Bey, the landlord and protector of the town, whose wife is stoned for the sin of adultery. There is a man known as “the Dog” because of his hideous aspect, who lives among the Lycian tombs; and another known as “the Blasphemer,” who wanders the town cursing God and all of his representatives of all faiths. And there is Philothei, the Christian girl of legendary beauty, courted from infancy by Ibrahim the goatherd–a great love that culminates in tragedy and madness. But Birds Without Wings is also the story of Mustafa Kemal, whose military genius will lead him to victory against the invading Western European forces of the Great War and a reshaping of the whole region. When the young men of the town are conscripted, we follow Karatavuk to Gallipoli, where the intimate brutality of battle robs him of all innocence. And in the town he left behind, we see how the twin scourges of fanatical religion and nationalism unleashed by the war quickly, and irreversibly, destroy the fabric of centuries-old peace. Epic in its narrative sweep–steeped in historical fact–yet profoundly humane and dazzlingly evocative in its emotional and sensual detail, Birds Without Wings is a triumph. less...
Article from BookForum: Beyond Good and Evil, by Zach Baron (about George Saunders' Tenth of December)
- 2015 Open Book Series | University of South Carolina | College of Arts and Sciences
The 2015 Series runs Mondays and Wednesdays for six weeks: March 16 - April 22, 6 pm, in the program room of the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library on the University of South Carolina campus. Each Monday will feature host Elise Blackwell (or a guest speaker) talking about one of the books, followed by the author's appearance each Wednesday. George Saunders will be speaking on March 18, 2015.