Thursday, February 20, 2014

Tenth of December

by George Saunders, published by Random House, 2013
Adult short stories

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.

What a contrast after reading ten juvenile short stories in Guys Read: Funny Business!

I had never read anything by this author and got interested by the rave reviews and clever posting I saw beneath its display at Book People, in Austin, Texas.

Many of the reviews and praise for this book mentioned its humor.  Truly, I didn't find much in it very amusing -- the characters and stories were so heartbreaking and real that I found myself feeling a little melancholy over the state of our world.  I didn't laugh at all because the characters were just so pitiful or pathetic; it seemed wrong to find their situations funny.

The stories were creative -- very creative -- and each interesting enough that I wanted to finish it; however, the narration styles were a bit repetitious, heavy on internal monologues and dialogues and very abrupt endings.  Sometimes the endings worked for me and made  powerful statements, sometimes not.

My absolute favorite was "Sticks," which was only two pages long, but it packed more meaning into it than any other story in the book. When I finished that one, I actually said an out loud "WOW."  My second favorite, due to the sheer irony and plausibility of what should be a ridiculous concept, was "The Semplica Girls Diaries." 

Of the ten stories, I'd say five I liked (2 REALLY liked), 3 I felt neutral, and 2 I didn't like at all.  There are some great lines and some very interesting characters, and Saunders does a great job of making you have definite feelings about the characters.  He is clearly a gifted writer and a keen observer of humanity.  Too bad the humanity he observed in this book is such a mess.

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