Book Review: Tenth of December

Tenth of December

I stumbled upon this book by chance. One of the stories from this collection was featured in a list of 18 Perfect Short Stories and everyone I talked to said they’d only heard good things. I made it a goal to read all the collections on the list and let me say, as far as this book is concerned, I was not disappointed. There wasn’t a story in here that I didn’t love, or that I’ll ever be able to forget. Saunders dives straight into the darkest places of the human heart and brings them to light with grace, wit, and humor. He is, without a doubt, one of the best short story writers I have had the pleasure to read and I can’t wait to get my hands on more of his stuff.

There are stories here about everything, love, loss, anger, war, science, relationships, the things that make us human, but there is one common thread that runs through the middle of all of them; the idea of right and wrong and how it relates to humanity. And while you may be shaking your head and saying, every book/story/song is, at its core, about this idea of right and wrong I would encourage you to take a look at morality through Saunder’s eyes. It’s a look at morality as I’ve never seen it before. He tackles the big questions and turns the answers on their heads. Lies become good, when the untruths we tell ourselves keep us from acting upon the deep darkness inside. When one acts out of love, harm becomes a kind of protection. Death is a weapon we use as a reminder of individuality, of choice, of control, of freedom. How hard, how very hard it is to do the right thing. And why it’s so important that we do.

And while you might be thinking, wow, this sounds like a dark read (it is), let me assure you that there is a beauty there as well. Saunders reminds us of the fact that each of us, down underneath all the surface grime, is a beautiful, albeit flawed, soul. A soul who is loved, a soul who feels, a soul who needs, in a world that would stunt all those things. His characters are transparent and honest and tragic, mirrors of our own failings and misconceptions. We have to hope for better for them because, in a way, we are the same. He tells the story of the truths that exist in all of us and, by giving them names, by bringing them to light, he sets us free from them.

This is a book that will make its mark on you. It will change the way you think, the way you look at the world, and maybe even the way you look at yourself. It’s a book we need to read because it’s about being human, in all its triumphant glory and all its sorrowful insignificance and sometimes, we need a reminder about what it truly means to be human.

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Short and Sweet

I’ve been avoiding the blog again, as I am sure you can tell. The thing of it is, I have nothing to say. I have no words. They are used up, gone, poof! All day long, I talk and engage and parent and when it comes time to sit down and write something I find my word supply wanting. It’s sad and depressing and just the season I’m in right now. But before that gets you all bummed out I should tell you that I have the solution. It came to me last week when I was thinking about that library post. The thing that can fix all of this is … reading. Yep, I don’t read anymore. I can’t. I think we’ve talked about that before. But I’ve realized that I HAVE to read because I need those words flowing in so words can flow out. And since I like to devour a book all at once but can no longer do so, I’ve settled on collections of short stories to get the ball rolling.

I’m starting out with Tenth of December by George Saunders and This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz. They came highly recommended by the Scottish Book Trust (for the record, I am planning on reading all 25 books on that list) and just came into the library. I am really looking forward to getting back in the habit of reading and I know it will help me develop this habit of writing. I’ve also been reminded of the necessity of putting in the time to “just write” because that’s what will get me where I want to be. If you are having a hard time staying motivated, I strongly recommend getting some Chuck Wendig in your life. Irreverent and inappropriate, his hilarious, madcap rantversations (rants + conversations) give you the push you need to get back to the drawing board.

That’s where I’m headed, back to the page. How about you? What unfinished business are you tackling this week?