"If the doctor told me I had six minutes to live, I'd type a little faster." --Isaac Asimov

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Book review: Tenth of December, by George Saunders

Tenth of DecemberTenth of December by George Saunders

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've never read anything by Saunders until this book, something that I now regret. I hope to remedy that situation soon. He's clearly an author who believes--as I do--that the short story is a much-underappreciated art form.

These stories are packed with emotion, often conveyed with subtle touches that nonetheless have gut-wrenching effects. Above all, Saunders manages to create a unique narrative voice for each story. The combination of ingredients in this collection includes plenty of dark humor and biting satire that most often take aim at middle-class America.

It's hard to pick a single favorite. Escape from Spiderhead is a look at the future of a world run by big pharma, where there's a drug that can elicit every human behavior imaginable. It's one of the longer stories in the collection, yet every word is there for a reason. Along the same lines. The Semplica Girl Diaries is written in choppy, journal-entry form but does so much with its sparse sentences and fragments. It chronicles the eternal struggle of a middle-class dad living from paycheck to paycheck while being crushed by debt. He is tormented by the need to make his daughter's birthday special and keep up with their wealthier neighbors. This carefully crafted story keeps the reader entranced through its highs and lows all the way through its bizarre twist.

In a popular fiction landscape dominated by formula writing and Hollywood endings, Saunders is a much needed breath of fresh air.

View all my reviews

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