Tenth of December by George Saunders

Takeaway: Another short story collection I didn’t like, surprise!

Anyone that has read my blog regularly over the past year or so will not be surprised that I didn’t like another collection of short stories.  That makes me 0.5 of 5 this year.  And it is not that the collections were poorly reviewed or by bad writers.  The collections I have read over the last year were by PJ Wodehouse, GK Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, and Flannery O’Connor and now George Saunders.  (Technically the Flannery O’Connor was a few days over a year ago.  And it was definitely the one I liked the best of the five.)

Given my general dislike of short stories you as reader are probably tired of me posting about not liking them.  But I keep wanting to read books that are well reviewed and generally loved.  Karen Swallow Prior gave Tenth of December very good review at Books and Culture. And it one the 10 best books by New York Times Book Review as well as winning some other awards.

This is another collection of short stories that I did not finish.  It was a library book (I was not fool enough to actually buy a collection of short stories given my history.)  And I read the first four straight through.  Then I read the fifth a couple days later.  And then I just didn’t want to pick it up again.  The stories were just weird.

Maybe my problem is that I am just not enough interested in literary fiction or I am too dense to get higher meanings.  But what I love about reading is not the bizarre or thickly textured literary work.  It is beautiful words and rich characters.

So what I generally don’t like about short stories (lack of character development and usually trying to make some point) seemed to be extra present here.

I was also not prepared for the language and sex.  As normal, with any fiction I try to avoid actually knowing too much about the story before I read it.  And it is not that I am against language or sex in books. I have really enjoyed many books with sex and/or language.  But this seemed more like the language and sex was used for shock not purpose.

So yes, I gave up.  This is the second review this week that I am reporting I gave up on.  And the other one was a short story collection.  So yeah.  No more short story collections for a while.  A long while.

Tenth of December Purchase Links:Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audible.com Audiobook

2 Comments

Oh, Adam, this review has me scratching my head! Of all the authors you listed, it was Flannery O’Connor you liked/tolerated? I’ve tried and tried to see what others say about her writings, but I end up saying “The stories were just weird” which was your conclusion about this collection. Perhaps I, too, am “too dense to get higher meanings,” but I still enjoy short stories by other writers.

With you, though, I truly love literary fiction, “beautiful words and rich characters,” preferring something lengthy – a story in which I can live for awhile.

Perhaps your aversion to short stories as a class has to do with being unable to live inside them? Just trying to figure that out! :c)

    O’Connor’s stories were definately weird too. But they seemed more coherent to me than this set.

    And with Dorothy Sanders and GK Chesterton because those were short story collections based on short mysteries, I think there was just not enough content because I am interested in the characters more than solving the crime.

    PJ Wodehouse, I have been told I just picked a weaker collection.

    But I think you are right. The short story it just not enough for me to live in.

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