Tenth of December by George Saunders – review

I’m not a big George Saunders fan. I had tried to get into The Brief and Horrible Reign of Phil and In Persuasion Nation and they just didn’t do anything for me.  It’s been long enough that I don’t entirely remember the specifics about what I disliked about them, only that they didn’t carry much weight for me.  Despite the rave reviews (and, no, I don’t buy the NYT saying Saunders has already wrote the best book of the year – I liked it, but I not that much), my past experiences made me leery.  Saunders might just be one of those writers I don’t really connect with, something that I find happening more and more as I get older. I wonder if this is on me, that maybe age is just closing me off to the world in a way that youth didn’t, or if my sensibilities just don’t match up with where the literary world is going- or at least where American literature is going.

Tenth of December (TOD) didn’t start off well for  me. The first story, “Victory Lap,” felt gimmicky and tiresome when it began. It seemed to be more concerned with its flair than with its story, though of course part of the story is the flair. the first handful of pages lacked balance, though, and I was tempted to just skip to the next story and see if it was any quicker off the line. I stuck with it, though, and there came a point where Saunders just sort of hit his stride and the story took off. He found his balance, and the story just worked.  I think it was the moment the third character, the would be murderer/rapist, enters the story.  Until then the story was like a table with only two legs, doomed to always topple over because at least three legs are required for stability (bonus points for anyone getting the KitH reference).

Then I just sort of stuck with the collection. None of the stories are bad, but the first time I picked the book up and flipped to the table of contents I couldn’t truly recall what each of the stories had been about aside from “Escape from Spiderhead.” I didn’t recall this story because I enjoyed it appreciably more than any other story, I’m not sure why I recalled it at all, but the rest of the stories blended into a haze. Flipping through the book and re-reading a page or two here and there would later bring each story back to me, allowing me to fill in the bits and pieces of what I had read, but they still didn’t create any real lasting impression.

If you’re a fan of Saunders, I’m going to guess that you’re going to love this collection. If you haven’t been a fan of Saunders (like me), this might be the collection to get so you can say you’ve read him.

Barnes and Noble

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One Response to “Tenth of December by George Saunders – review”

  1. The Miniature Wife: And Other Stories by Manuel Gonzales – review « Loose Leaf Bound Says:

    […] Words, Keystrokes and Creased Bindings « Tenth of December by George Saunders – review […]

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