Tenth of December

“Was she special? Did she consider herself special? Oh, gosh, she didn’t know… There was so much she didn’t know! Like how to change the oil. Or even check the oil. How to open the hood. How to bake brownies. That was embarrassing actually, being a girl and all. And what was a mortgage? Did it come with the house? When you breast-fed, did you have to like push the milk out? Egads.” (The Tenth of December by George Saunders)

The tenth of december coverUntil now, short stories have always been the hated/feared green vegetable of reading for me. I knew they were good for my mind, good for the writers, good for the whole institution of publishing, but to me each individual short story was always the exact same reading experience. Namely: excellent writer experiments with prose, closely examines psyche of character, and ends precisely when character reveals his/her self. Like short story writers all had the same idea about how to be profound when given only a few pages.  Not so with George Saunders. He redefines profundity.

Saunders has a superb mastery of language, using profanity, colloquialisms, and {special characters} to great effect, but he truly won my heart by adding subtle, understated twists of sci-fi to his stories. George Saunders’ near futures skip the mundane aspects of science fiction, the world-hazards and technological overloads, and jump straight to what is most important. Children grapple with the morality of displaying people in their yard. A man looses his job because a pill makes him too Chivalrous. A prisoner decides whether he can stand idly by while scientists kill another inmate. In any of his near-future glimpses, Saunders focuses on people, on the decisions they must make, on what is in their hearts. This is Literature first and foremost; the sci-fi parts are simply for your reading pleasure.

Read the title story now
Recommended Action: Buy BorrowTBR Avoid
Length: 272 pgs
Ending: Each story was pretty complete, with its own beginning, middle, and end
Further Reading: Since I admittedly have little experience with the form, I’ll recommend a few other books with subtle sci-fi twists: When You Reach MeThe City and the CityFamiliar, and Life After Life. 


4 thoughts on “Tenth of December

  1. There are some fantastic short stories out there. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a brilliant short story by F Scott Fitzgerald, completely different to the film but then again it wouldn’t have made a very long film in its original form.

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