Author George Saunders’ latest collection of short stories, Tenth of December, has received considerable acclaim by readers and critics alike since its publication in 2013. Saunders wrote most of the stories included in the collection after receiving the MacArthur Fellowship in 2006.
Much of his fiction includes vivid portrayals of suburban American life with a surreal and humorous twist. He is often compared to the likes of Kurt Vonnegut and Mark Twain, one of the founding fathers of American Literature.
While a lot of his stories contain elements of surrealism and science fiction, Saunders writes in a heartwarmingly lyrical yet straightforward manner. He experiments with the literary landscape of contemporary fiction by merging different literary genres and techniques into the confined space of a short story.
A lot of Saunders’ work reflects on class-consciousness; how different individuals from various socioeconomic classes react when faced with ethical, political and social obstacles. There is also a trace of contemporary humanism in Saunders’s short-story formula.
Most of the stories are character-driven, usually with the main character(s) in question recovering from and or dealing with recent or ongoing hardships; usually left unresolved until the set of values and beliefs instilled in the character reconcile with the environment.
“Victory Lap”, the opening story of the book, centers around a young boy raised by ridiculously strict parents who risks his life to save a next-door neighbor from being kidnapped. “Victory Lap” is not your usual morality tale about doing the right thing; it is also Saunders’ depiction of the internal struggle found in every individual who’s ever felt out of touch with his or her own community.
The choice of being either completely independent and self-sufficient or an integrated part of the surrounding environment is thus taken for granted, since it is often instrumental in shaping the foundations of every individual’s sense of self.
Saunders’ ability to fashion characters and color their personalities and quirks through a distinctive use of American colloquialisms gives off an illuminating aura while reading.
Although some may find a couple of the stories nightmarish, odd, or just plain depressing, the overall effect of reading Saunders’ stories is restorative of a newfound faith in humanity. This trust comes aptly at a time when class differences and the struggle of making ends meet turns the everyman and woman into a cold hard cynic.
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