What does one make of “Tenth of December” by George Saunders?
I wished to turn away from most of these short stories. There was horror, fear and a real uneasiness in trying to just survive reading these works.
Characters were undergoing real physical and emotional pain of the deepest sort.
I went to other sources to see what others felt about this book. NPR stated in a review: “... that what we assumed was a nightmare is, in fact, our new reality. 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.”
That is the great fear for this reader. The horror he writes of and the world they occur in should be science fiction. They are, aren’t they?
The stories are called by some “morality tales.” If true, this is no morality of decency from ages past. This is the morality of class warfare, hatred, warped minds and evil intent.
All that would be fine if we could close the book covers and say, “Nice fiction.” You can’t.
We are as a world far too close to the characters and settings of which Saunders writes.
His work is of the pain and agony we as humans can impose on others, rationalizing it all away while doing so.
Most who have reviewed this book found humor of sort as a thread. I found little. If there is humor here it is the readers nervous laugh meant to lessen the jolt of reality.
That the books impact is so vivid and mind wrenching speaks to the genius of Saunders as a writer.
The New York Times review of the book said: “It’s no accident, I think, that Saunders has chosen to set the story on this particular day, or to name the collection as a whole after it. Why the 10th of December? It’s not the solstice yet; the days are drawing shorter, but things aren’t as dark as they could be; even now, there’s still a glimmer of light.”
That was written in 2013. His stories ring truer in 2017 than they did in 2013. That is the scariest thought of all. Let us hope the glimmer is still there. We have been forewarned if we let the light go out.
“If I want to make a fictional world where there’s no kindness, this doesn’t mean I believe there’s no kindness in the real world. In fact, what it may mean is that I very much value kindness. Like if you make a painting in which only greens are allowed, it wouldn’t mean you don’t believe in blue. You’re just saying: Wow, look at green. I’ve heard it said that comedy is the indirect praise of perfection. So if you make a world in which compassion is absent, you are, via its absence, praising compassion.” - George Saunders, The Missouri Review, 2001
Gary Thorne is the play-by-play voice of the Orioles on MASN, and the 2017 season is his 11th with the club and 32nd covering Major League Baseball. His blog will appear regularly throughout the season. The Orioles and Sarasota County have partnered on the Big League Reader Program, which rewarded kids who read three books in February with tickets to a Grapefruit League game at Ed Smith Stadium in March.
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