Joy Bombs

Tenth of December - George Saunders

FA review tag

“Consistently popular, highly regarded authors tend to become more myth than writer. George Saunders is that type.”[1] “It’s almost hard to fathom how a writer this good could get better. But he has. A lot better, even.”[2] “In Tenth of December, […] readers will encounter an abduction, a rape, a chemically induced suicide, the suppressed rage of a milquetoast or two, a veteran’s post-­traumatic impulse to burn down his mother’s house — all of it buffeted by gusts of such merriment and tender regard and daffy good cheer that you realize only in retrospect how dark these morality tales really are.”[3]

“As usual with Saunders, the first thing you notice is the language, the exhilarating explosion of slang, neologisms, fake product names.”[4] “These stories feature a kind of nattering glibness, especially from authority figures who want to crush your soul while maintaining the thinnest pretense of being your friend.”[5] “But in his new book, his defiant quirkiness is tempered with a dark sobriety and a sense that the world we live in is often more surreal and savage than any satire could be.”[6] “Saunders’s fictions often present powerless characters trapped in a sort of chirpy, totalitarian Disneyland;”[7] “a kind of Dark Ages middle America defined by Darwinian class striving […] and the substitution of bureaucracy for ethics.”[8] “Part of what makes these stories so painful, and so funny, is the way that Saunders melds together the fear of total economic failure with the fear of just not being good enough, of social annihilation.”[9]

“Should a man report his boss if he walks in on him raping a coworker? Why, yes, of course. But what if that coworker is desperate to let the whole thing lie so she can keep her job, enjoy the ‘bonus’ and the promotion their boss is buying her silence with, and preserve her marriage? And what if the would-be whistleblower’s principles will cost him the paycheck on which his parents and sister depend? These are the questions posed in ‘My Chivalric Fiasco.’”[10]

“Saunders’ most valuable quality is his overwhelming compassion for the sad characters he moves through impossible situations. Their plights are heartbreaking and gut-busting. That fascination with cutting deep while also caring big, mining deep to the core of human misery while always leaving a sightline to that little glimmer of hope above, is what makes Saunders’ stories so gripping.”[11] “There’s something so wildly magnanimous about these stories that you want to hit yourself for not thinking this creatively yourself, and force them on everyone you meet for the good of mankind.”[12]

“Saunders […] is the master of joy bombs. […] Here’s one: ‘Although, problem: if he went back to hand-pluck the microclods, he’d leave an incriminating new trail of microclods.’ Or this: ‘And they left, neither knowing how close they had come to getting Darkenfloxxed™ out their wing-wangs.’ One more: ‘It smelled of man sweat and spaghetti sauce and old books. Like a library where sweaty men went to cook spaghetti.’”[13]

“I’d like to have seen him deliver a longer collection.”[14] “Some of Tenth of December feels like it could have been lifted straight out of Saunders’s previous collections. […] And for a writer with such a great ear, it’s a pity Saunders so often returns to characters with the same voice – the naive, slightly childish, slightly too literal guy who says things such as, ‘I knew Don Murray was her boss because Don Murray was also my boss’ or ‘I could not help but wonder what tomorrow would bring’.”[15]

“If this collection does edge in a new direction, it is in Saunders’s slight shuffle towards realism, away from the more wildly imaginative stories that dominated his earlier books.”[16] “Tenth of December isn’t just the author’s most unexpected work yet; […] It also proves that Saunders is one of America’s best writers of fiction, and that his stories are as weird, scary and devastating as America itself.”[17]

One comment

  1. I’m not finished yet, but the reviews seem overlown to me. A couple stories were great. A couple of them seemed like trash, but I’ll forge on.

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