Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Review: Tenth of December

Tenth of December
From Tenth of December, by George Saunders:
Open quote 

So goodnight to all future generations. Please know I was a person like you, I too breathed air and tensed legs while trying to sleep and, when writing with pencil, sometimes brought pencil to nose to smell. Although who knows, maybe you future people write with laser pens? But probably even those have a certain smell?"

After the jump, my review.

Grade: C+

I don't usually read collections of short stories. Or media like The New Yorker that contain individual short stories. So, I don't know what to compare this collection to. Included on just about every list of the best books of 2013, Tenth of December must be good, right? I found it mostly tedious (I admit guiltily).

Most of the stories are about luckless misfits, middle class people in bad jobs, bad families, bad circumstances generally. Saunders gets us into their heads with a stream of consciousness style as they wrestle with fundamental questions of whether to acquiesce or act. Unfortunately, there's not much depth to their mental deliberations. It may be true, as Thoreau said, that the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, but that doesn't make their lives interesting.

The excerpt above, from one character's personal journal, is typical. He wants to leave a record of what his life, his time, was like, but everything he writes distracts him. His journal ends up being a rambling series of random tangents. In his case, even his quiet desperation gets lost in idle thoughts like the smell of laser pens. In the end, this whole collection of short stories feels just like that, a rambling series of idle thoughts by not very interesting people.

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