By George Saunders
George Saunders broke onto the short fiction scene with his critically acclaimed Civil-WarLand in Bad Decline (1996), following that collection with two others, Pastoralia (2000) and In Persuasion Nation (**** Sept/Oct 2006). In Tenth of December, the world looks shabby, sometimes frightening, darkly humorous and satiric--and just a little weird.
THE STORY: George Saunders's latest collection offers 10 variations on the themes of parents and children, material wealth, the ever-encroaching world, and death. The stories feature a returning veteran, an adolescent girl whose view of the world is about to change drastically, a father at loose ends who brings home some disturbing lawn ornaments, a mother who takes drastic measures to control her emotionally disturbed child, and a suicidal cancer patient and his improbable meeting with a troubled boy. All of these characters, no matter how dark their plights, work in the service of Saunders's singular vision, an ambivalence for life that, oddly, gives it meaning.
Random House. 272 pages. $26. ISBN: 9780812993806
San Francisco Chronicle *****
"Recent collections by Brian Evenson and Steven Millhauser and Jim Shepard and Mary Caponegro provide ample evidence that the story form is enjoying a golden age, but it's Saunders whose name is both whispered in reverent tones and shouted from the rooftops by other authors. ... [The collection's stories] go for the jugular instead of the funny bone, and they're capable of astounding, unnerving and delighting all at once." ANDREW ERVIN
Cleveland Plain Dealer ****
"One thing is certain while reading most of these stories: [Saunders] does what he wants, and he does it better than anyone else writing short fiction today. The sentences are electric, never mannered, and the stories are entirely real, no matter how zany the premise." DAVID VARNO
Miami Herald ****
"Keen readers open to the unusual are drawn to [Saunders's] disturbingly humorous short fiction, which peels away the lies and rationalizations of our self-medicated, corporate-controlled, pop culture-driven society. In his new book, Tenth of December, the stakes are high; questions of good and evil predominate, as Saunders' characters struggle to maintain their humanity in the face of darkness." ARIEL GONZALEZ
Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel ****
"Saunders lets the emotional throttle all the way out in the beautiful title story, which closes the collection...