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  • ★★★★-3.75

Review: Tenth of December by George Saunders (Spoiler-Free)

Victory Lap- ★★★☆☆

Seeing people's reactions to this story is part of what drew me to this collection. I found it just fine, but the style of prose truly unique. Luckily for me, this piece barely scratches the surface in terms of creative constraints on the writing style, so there is even more puzzling prose to come.

Sticks- ★★★★☆

Alright, so I said that the last story is what convinced me to read this collection, but that wasn't the whole truth. It was a mix of the praise I'd heard for "Victory Lap" and the fact that I realized I'd read "Sticks" before. As a college sophomore, in Creative Writing: Fiction, we discussed 1-5 stories every week. That's a lot of stories. And I remembered this one! Still solid upon re-read.

Puppy- ★★★★★

George Saunders, I was not familiar with your weirdness game.

"Puppy" sounds like it would be a sweet little tale, doesn't it? Well, if you're expecting that, I'd encourage you to run as fast as you can in the other direction. This was depraved and I could not look away. Also the attention to detail—something about an old encyclopedia in a dried out fish tank—was masterful.

Escape From Spiderhead- ★★★★.5

Oh now we're going full sci-fi??? Would not have predicted that, but hell yeah.

I'm not sure I've ever felt such extremes of emotion from short fiction. Writing about this will not do it justice. Somehow, Saunders enmeshes a haunting sci-fi concept with the medium of prose itself?? And utterly crushes it. No notes except that I'd read this as a full-length novel.

Exhortation- ★★☆☆☆

Gonna be honest, this one felt almost entirely like gimmick over substance. I don't have a memory of what it was about, only about how it was told.

Al Roosten- ★★☆☆☆

Interesting character study. Very Nice Guy™. A little blah.

The Semplica Girl Diaries- ★★★☆☆

Ahahahahah. You read this story for so long and then an idea enters you're brain and you pause, shake your head, and laugh. Why would you think that? So you keep going, chugging along, and there it is. That is what's going on. What the fuck. Ahahahahah.

Weirdest way you could possibly provide commentary on social class, but arguably required to get the point across.

Home- ★★★★★

I don't even think I could tell you why I loved this. It's something about the voice. Something about the mundanity. Something about the fact that it just ends. I could live in it.

My Chivalrous Fiasco- ★★★☆☆

This kind of felt like a comical anecdote from "Escape From Spiderhead" and not its own story. The knight writing was seamless as always, but by this point in the collection, we know what Saunders is capable of and don't need this to prove it.

Tenth of December- ★★★★★

What a finish. Reminded me of what I love most about Iain Reid's We Spread and Fredrik Backman's And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer. The juxtaposition of young and old, the fear of becoming "THAT". The guilt. Chilling.

In conversation with David Sedaris

This is not a short story, but a Q&A at the end of the edition I read. I always like to read authors' reflections on their work, so I expected to like this. But I did not expect it to be my favorite part of the entire thing. If you have the chance to read it, don't skip it, I beg you. You'll miss gems like this:

I like the idea that a work of fiction is basically just some timeless human dilemma, dressed up in contemporary clothing.


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