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Tenth of December
Cover of Tenth of December
Tenth of December
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NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALISTNAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEWNAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY PeopleThe New York Times MagazineNPREntertainment...
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALISTNAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEWNAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY PeopleThe New York Times MagazineNPREntertainment...
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  • NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST
  • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
    NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
    People
  • The New York Times Magazine
  • NPR
  • Entertainment Weekly
  • New York
  • The Telegraph
  • BuzzFeed
  • Kirkus Reviews
  • BookPage
  • Shelf Awareness
    One of the most important and blazingly original writers of his generation, George Saunders is an undisputed master of the short story, and Tenth of December is his most honest, accessible, and moving collection yet.

    In the taut opener, "Victory Lap," a boy witnesses the attempted abduction of the girl next door and is faced with a harrowing choice: Does he ignore what he sees, or override years of smothering advice from his parents and act? In "Home," a combat-damaged soldier moves back in with his mother and struggles to reconcile the world he left with the one to which he has returned. And in the title story, a stunning meditation on imagination, memory, and loss, a middle-aged cancer patient walks into the woods to commit suicide, only to encounter a troubled young boy who, over the course of a fateful morning, gives the dying man a final chance to recall who he really is. A hapless, deluded owner of an antiques store; two mothers struggling to do the right thing; a teenage girl whose idealism is challenged by a brutal brush with reality; a man tormented by a series of pharmaceutical experiments that force him to lust, to love, to kill—the unforgettable characters that populate the pages of Tenth of December are vividly and lovingly infused with Saunders's signature blend of exuberant prose, deep humanity, and stylistic innovation.

    Writing brilliantly and profoundly about class, sex, love, loss, work, despair, and war, Saunders cuts to the core of the contemporary experience. These stories take on the big questions and explore the fault lines of our own morality, delving into the questions of what makes us good and what makes us human.

    Unsettling, insightful, and hilarious, the stories in Tenth of December—through their manic energy, their focus on what is redeemable in human beings, and their generosity of spirit—not only entertain and delight; they fulfill Chekhov's dictum that art should "prepare us for tenderness."
    NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

    "The best book you'll read this year."The New York Times Magazine

    "A feat of inventiveness . . . This eclectic collection never ceases to delight with its at times absurd, surreal, and darkly humorous look at very serious subjects. . . . Saunders makes you feel as though you are reading fiction for the first time."—Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner

    "The best short-story writer in English—not 'one of,' not 'arguably,' but the Best."—Mary Karr, Time

    "A visceral and moving act of storytelling . . . No one writes more powerfully than George Saunders about the lost, the unlucky, the disenfranchised."—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

    "Saunders's startling, dreamlike stories leave you feeling newly awakened to the world."People

    "It's no exaggeration to say that short story master George Saunders helped change the trajectory of American fiction."The Wall Street Journal

    GEORGE SAUNDERS WAS NAMED ONE OF THE 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE IN THE WORLD BY TIME MAGAZINE
    From the Hardcover edition.
 

Awards-

Excerpts-

  • From the book

    TENTH of DECEMBERThe pale boy with unfortunate Prince Valiant bangs and cublike mannerisms hulked to the mudroom closet and req- uisitioned Dad's white coat. Then requisitioned the boots he'd spray-painted white. Painting the pellet gun white had been a no. That was a gift from Aunt Chloe. Every time she came over he had to haul it out so she could make a big stink about the wood grain.

    Today's assignation: walk to pond, ascertain beaver dam. Likely he would be detained. By that species that lived amongst the old rock wall. They were small but, upon emerging, assumed certain proportions. And gave chase. This was just their methodology. His aplomb threw them loops. He knew that. And reveled in it. He would turn, level the pellet gun, intone: Are you aware of the usage of this human implement?

    Blam!

    They were Netherworlders. Or Nethers. They had a strange bond with him. Sometimes for whole days he would just nurse their wounds. Occasionally, for a joke, he would shoot one in the butt as it fled. Who henceforth would limp for the rest of its days. Which could be as long as an additional nine million years.

    Safe inside the rock wall, the shot one would go, Guys, look at my butt.

    As a group, all would look at Gzeemon's butt, exchanging sullen glances of: Gzeemon shall indeed be limping for the next nine million years, poor bloke.

    Because yes: Nethers tended to talk like that guy in Mary Poppins.

    Which naturally raised some mysteries as to their ultimate origin here on Earth.

    Detaining him was problematic for the Nethers. He was wily. Plus could not fit through their rock-wall opening. When they tied him up and went inside to brew their special miniaturizing potion--Wham!-- he would snap their antiquated rope with a move from his self-invented martial arts system, Toi Foi, a.k.a., Deadly Forearms. And place at their doorway an implacable rock of suffocation, trapping them inside.

    Later, imagining them in their death throes, taking pity on them, he would come back, move the rock.

    Blimey, one of them might say from withal. Thanks, guv'nor. You are indeed a worthy adversary.

    Sometimes there would be torture. They would make him lie on his back looking up at the racing clouds while they tortured him in ways he could actually take. They tended to leave his teeth alone. Which was lucky. He didn't even like to get a cleaning. They were dunderheads in that manner. They never messed with his peen and never messed with his fingernails. He'd just abide there, infuriating them with his snow angels. Sometimes, believing it their coup de grâce, not realizing he'd heard this since time in memorial from certain in-school cretins, they'd go, Wow, we didn't even know Robin could be a boy's name. And chortle their Nether laughs.

    Today he had a feeling that the Nethers might kidnap Suzanne Bledsoe, the new girl in homeroom. She was from Montreal. He just loved the way she talked. So, apparently, did the Nethers, who planned to use her to repopulate their depleted numbers and bake various things they did not know how to bake.

    All suited up now, NASA. Turning awkwardly to go out the door.

    Affirmative. We have your coordinates. Be careful out there, Robin.

    Whoa, cold, dang.

    Duck thermometer read ten. And that was without windchill. That made it fun. That made it real. A green Nissan was parked where Poole dead-ended into the soccer field.

    Hopefully the owner was not some perv he would have to outwit.

    Or a Nether in the human guise.

    Bright, bright, blue and cold. Crunch went the snow as he crossed the soccer field. Why did cold such as this give a running guy...

About the Author-

  • MacArthur "Genius Grant" fellow George Saunders is the acclaimed author of several collections of short stories, including Pastoralia and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, as well as a collection of essays and a book for children. He teaches in the creative writing program at Syracuse University.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from November 5, 2012
    The title of Saunders's fourth collection doesn't reference any regularly observed holiday, but for the MacArthur-certified genius's fans, a new collection, his first in six years, is a cause to celebrate. Yet the 10 stories here—six of which ran in the New Yorker—might make readers won over by earlier, irony-laced absurdities like Pastoralia's "Sea Oak" or corporate nightmares like "CommComm" from In Persuasion Nation question whether they know Saunders as well as they think they do. Yes, "Puppy" is about a maniacally upbeat mother on a "Family Mission" to adopt a dog only to discover the dog owner's son chained to a tree in the backyard "via some sort of doohicky." Yes, "Escape from Spiderhead" is about evil experiments to make love and take love away using drugs with names like Darkenfloxx™. But readers expecting zany escapism will be humbled by the pathos on display in stories like "Home," where a soldier returns to his humble origins. "Victory Lap" features a disarming case of child kidnapping, and "The Semplica Girl Diaries" is a heartbreaking chronicle of two months of changeable fortune in the life of a lower-middle-class paterfamilias of modest expectation ("graduate college, win Pam, get job, make babies, forget feeling of special destiny"). Eventually, a suspicion creeps in that, behind Saunders's comic talents, he might be the most compassionate writer working today. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM.

  • Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner "The best book you'll read this year."--The New York Times Magazine "A feat of inventiveness . . . This eclectic collection never ceases to delight with its at times absurd, surreal, and darkly humorous look at very serious subjects. . . . George Saunders makes you feel as though you are reading fiction for the first time."
  • Mary Karr, Time "The best short-story writer in English--not 'one of,' not 'arguably,' but the Best."
  • People "A visceral and moving act of storytelling . . . No one writes more powerfully than George Saunders about the lost, the unlucky, the disenfranchised."--Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times "Saunders's startling, dreamlike stories leave you feeling newly awakened to the world."
  • The Boston Globe "It's no exaggeration to say that short story master George Saunders helped change the trajectory of American fiction."--The Wall Street Journal "An irresistible mix of humor and humanity . . . that will make you beam with unmitigated glee. [Grade:] A"--Entertainment Weekly "Saunders captures the fragmented rhythms, disjointed sensory input, and wildly absurd realities of the twenty-first century experience like no other writer."
  • Thomas Pynchon "Tenth of December shows George Saunders at his most subversive, hilarious, and emotionally piercing. Few writers can encompass that range of adjectives, but Saunders is a true original--restlessly inventive, yet deeply humane."--Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize--winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad "George Saunders is a complete original, unlike anyone else, thank god--and yet still he manages to be the rightful heir to three other complete American originals--Barthelme (the lyricism, the playfulness), Vonnegut (the outrage, the wit, the scope), and Twain (the common sense, the exasperation). There is no author I recommend to people more often--for ten years I've urged George Saunders onto everyone and everyone. You want funny? Saunders is your man. You want emotional heft? Saunders again. You want stories that are actually about something--stories that again and again get to the meat of matters of life and death and justice and country? Saunders. There is no one better, no one more essential to our national sense of self and sanity."--Dave Eggers, author of A Hologram for the King Praise for George Saunders "Not since Twain has America produced a satirist this funny."--Zadie Smith "George Saunders makes the all-but-impossible look effortless. We're lucky to have him."--Jonathan Franzen "An astoundingly tuned voice--graceful, dark, authentic, and funny--telling just the kinds of stories we need to get us through these times."
  • Sarah Vowell "Saunders is a writer of arresting brilliance and originality, with a sure sense of his material and apparently inexhaustible resources of voice. . . . Scary, hilarious, and unforgettable."--Tobias Wolff "A multifaceted writer, very easy on the surface to pin down but incredibly difficult once you actually read him with any depth."--Joshua Ferris "Saunders's satiric vision of America is dark and demented; it's also ferocious and funny."--Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times "George Saunders is so funny and inventive he makes you love words and so wide-eyed wistful he talks you into loving people."

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