Books on Tap returned to Champion Brewery on April 7 to discuss George Saunders’ short story collection The Tenth of December. Many participants were familiar with Saunders and enjoyed his previous collections, especially his dark humor. Some readers compared his slightly futuristic settings and twist endings to sci-fi writers like Ray Bradbury and Philip K. Dick. Saunders is known for his satire of consumer culture and for focusing on working class characters who will go to great lengths to provide for their families. These protagonists, imbued by Saunders with fragile humanity, transform cliches in the dialogue into profound commentary on contemporary mores. Many of these stories feature male characters, with limited female perspective. Our readers felt this was partly a function of first-person narrative and also Saunders’ deep sympathy for vulnerable males and their particular 21st century anxieties. Other themes readers noted were the use of the grotesque to shock readers into appreciating subtle changes to what has become acceptable in our culture, a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses attitude, and universal interest in coming-of-age stories. While some topics, like pharmacology, may seem dated to later readers, overall we predict the collection to hold up.
Most people in our group did not read short stories regularly. However, they thought that the fanciful conceits Saunders uses in many of his stories are better suited to this form than novel-length narratives. A list of recommended short story collections is below.
Visit the author’s official website.
Find other works by the author in JMRL’s catalog.
Explore this National Book Award Finalist further on the official NBF website.
Read a review in the New York Times.
Check out an interview with the author in TriQuarterly.
Recommendations from Books on Tap Members:
Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson
Everything Ravaged & Everything Burned by Wells Tower
What We Talk About When We Talk about Anne Frank by Nathan Englander