GeorgeSaunders and the Short Story Cycle “10thof December”

“Tenthof December” is George Saunders’ collection of short stories,which includes stories that were published in a number of magazinesbetween the year 1995 and 2009. This collection of short stories waspraised to be “absolutely of the moment” and truly original,before. The book, a price winning “Tenth of December” collectionby George Saunders, constitutes stories that were collected later on.This means that they have before been published apart from eachother.

GeorgeSaunders’ “Tenth of December” collection of short storiesconstitutes to some sense and extent a linked story collection. Tobegin with, George Saunders has a reputation that is exemplified withappraisals featured on most of the front matter and covers of hisliterary works, which arguably stems down to three things: his uniqueliterary style, his self-conscious struggle to represent Americanliterary world in its surreal and brutal splendor, and its largescope of moral compassion that exhibits his warm humanity (Mann 69).Linked up collection of his works goes does down to what is at stakein his fictional book. Brown (6) noted that his collection of storiesis as a result of an investigation of curious overlap of threenotion: humanity, America, and style.

Secondly,it is evident that all of the three elements are linked up, whichresonates from one story to the next in the book. For instance, from“Sticks” (1995) to “Exhortation” (2000) to “Puppy”(2007), there is a sense of linked up humanity felt in the shortstories. According to Igram (101), he noted that all these elementscome together in what could be termed as “linguistic ideology”.Linguistic Ideology is defined as a writer’s self-reflexive orspontaneous theorization of the linguistic and story line situationwhich mainly characterized a link up from one short story to another.George Saunders to some extent is the master of the joy bomb. This isevident in the book, from one short story to the next. The storiesare linked with little explosions of genius with grin-stimulants ofendless flights entertainment of imagination and a mix of humanityand humor (Mann 98). For instance, “Victory Lap”, which is theopening story, is hilarious and alarming. It tells the tale ofchildren in danger. The next story “Sticks” recounts childrenthat are terrified when they recount how their father lost hissanity.

GeorgeSaunders’ “Tenth of December”, as much as it is a linked upcollection of short stories, is also to some extent a short storycycle. When critically examined, the short story tackles disturbingsubjects, which includes abduction and rape that are as moving asinsightful, laced with memorable hilarious moments. All the storiesresonate in a cycle to some extent, solely dealing with relatedsubjects.

“Tenthof December” is a collection of short stories that when readconsecutively, presents a continuation of theme. In “Tenth ofDecember”, this is evidenced by paradoxical nature of GeorgeSaunders’ story line in his work. Kennedy (98) claims that theauthor ensured that his artistic material became neoliberal America’ssocial fabric that is systematically created to exhibitcontradictions, disastrous emotions, antagonisms, and ethicalconsequences. However, when read consecutively, his symbolic theme isindustrialization and moralization problems. That is, thesecollection of short story exhumes degrading and painful panoply ofthe injustices, which the United States late capitalism on some ofits subjects. However, Saunders response in almost every storyresults to sole principle of his work, which is evidenced byindividualized and moralized gesture. In consecutive stories, thismain theme is conjoined to the main motifs that run across the book:fatherhood. In the collection, the reader encounters symbolicfathers, overbearing fathers, imperfect fathers, and indebted fathersthat try to be better fathers (Nagel 149). It is a structured feelingthat is felt when the book is continuously read all through.

Postfeministfatherhood, as Kennedy (88) conceives it, is articulated emotionally,domestically competent, and skilled in management of parenthoodpracticalities and adept in negotiation of balance and discursiveprivate sphere confluence in fatherhood and paternalism of publicsphere. This therefor is the image idealized by the reader of thefatherhood, which the concomitant masculinity that Saunders’protagonists especially the males fails to live up to in one way ofthe other. From one story to the next, every protagonist tends tohover in between falling short of the new paradigm and engaging inthe nostalgia, which is considered the older paradigm (Brown, 11):The Fordism patriarch father.

Itis evident that male protagonists throughout the stories can be seento occupy the range from the failure of postfeminist fatherhood tothe nostalgic obsolete and consequently violent doubles, which is apatriarch Fordism state of masculinity. Saunders presented a trueexample, which is perhaps for the male characters that are not yetfathers, but those who are hunted by the law. For instance, this isevidenced at the start of the short story by “Victory Lap”, whichexposes violence in the middle of both masculinity paradigms theFordist-nostalgia and postfeminist (Cowles, 5).

“Tenthof December” has a unifying mechanism that runs across the shortstories, which is the “emergence of minimal humanity”. GeorgeSaunders razor-sharp, residual humanism and social critique unifiesthe whole collection of short stories in accentuating what isbelieved to be main source of comedy in his works. According to Mann(112), this unifying factor is present in every Sounder’s work,however, nowhere else is placed more effective into use than in“Semplica Dirl Diaries.” The story presents a piece ofspeculative fiction, which is recounted in a diary by a middle classfather in abject poverty about the kind of a world, which is verymuch like our own. These unifying monuments in the story are luxurygarden items more girls mean more luxury.

Thebook is unified by emotional and stylistic rhythms of totality, whilethe book’s comic effect is dulled, but still, the short stories areattached with the same mechanism. What the collection of books has incommon is best orchestrated with artistic exploitation of borderlineirrational idiosyncrasy: a pencil on the nose, and a surreallyexaggerated anecdote.

GeorgeSaunders’ “Tenth of December” is rather dark underlying senseof desperate need and class anxiety that defines oneself in ashifting age and non-existent definitions. To begin with, Igram (78)noted that “Tenth of December” is a very dark, particularly whenconsidered in terms of class and power. Money worries is noted tohave been part of Saunders literary work, but in the collection ofshort stories, “Tenth of December”, it is casted with longershadows deepened into a somber, pervasive mood that weighs the bookwith welcome and new gravity. Nagel (143) noted that class anxiety inSaunders’ work is spread everywhere. For example in “Puppy”,there is the woman whose marital issues lifted her from adysfunctional root, and she is so horrified to be in a poor family,whereby she finds empathy to be impossible, and with tragic results.

In“Home”, returning soldier from the Middle East arrived UNannounced on his ex-wife with a new husband who is much richer. Inthe “Semblance Girl Diaries”, a father is brooding that he cannotprovide to his children with the exact same luxury that theirclassmates are enjoying. Elsewhere, he writes in his journal that hedoes not fancy rich people since they make the poor people like us tofeel inadequate and dopey. However, he considered them to be averageand not poor.

Yetdespite the clear-eyed despair and dirty surrealism, “Tenth ofDecember” is adamant to succumb its dark appeal to depression.Brown (23) note that it is partly because of George Saunders’sincessant humor and detractors could wonder if made a mistake andended in the jokers land. However, it is more substantially that dueto his exhilarating attention given to language and his benefitinggenerosity of the spirit. The darkened side of George Saunders’ isevidenced by heather suffer and a tenderness that is hard to fathom.

Thecollection of short stories in “Tenth of December”, just likethose in the author’s previous collection, appears to be certainlyweird art objects (Clark 12). The dark side is taken in unfamiliarsituations and with a backdrop of daily American life and saturatesit with real hyper colors and skewwhiff language. The “Soon”, isthe character in the story “Escape from Spiderhead”, and havingbeen dip-fed with the lucidity-induced drug, Verbaluce, says that hewas having a feeling of the exact things by saying them better.Occasionally, his tricky antic is to imagine utopia and not dystopiafor instance, child abduction could end with the rescue that is thecollection of a title’s story of an aborted suicide.

Manycritics are opinionated on their central interest of human beingsthat tend to create a predictable environment around us. This urge,according to Cowles (5), is that it makes them advocate for integralunity and internal purposiveness, for instance, a literary work. Forexample, George Saunders’ “Tenth of December” consists ofloosely but related linked short stories. There has a suggestion tocreate structural and thematic love and unity amongst themselves.

Inregard to centripetal and centrifugal features, there is no need todelve into lengthy definitions of the collection of books composite.These features are evident since it draws attention to autonomousstructure however much the stories are independent, and is followedup with features of multivocality, ant closure, anti-teleology, andits comparatively narratively low degree. “Tenth of December” ina more restricted meaning is characterized by its centrifugalstructure, but are still linked stories. This collection of shortstories, according to Igram (117), is defined to be built from aseries of centrifugal features. These short stories are could berelatively autonomous units that are strung together to form a flowwith a degree of cohesion.

Inaddition, “Tenth of December” is characterized by the shortstories centripetal features that are identified with itsmultiplicity. The book has several story lines even though thepresence of one unifying mechanism makes it to be considered to haveone theme. This is evidenced by the presence of narrators,protagonists, and the settings. It tends to de-emphasize temporalityand causality. Kennedy (190) noted that in other short stories, theircomposites have a distinct sequence from the started to the end,which is often downplayed. However, in Saunders’ “Tenth ofDecember”, the two features (centripetal and centrifugal) appearsto be slightly retrospective since it does not summarize or eitherresolve the previous and the next story.

Mann (89) claimed that critics to some extend should their focus oninterplay between centrifugal and centripetal narrative features inSaunders’ “Tenth of December”. The book however presents fourcomposite subcategories that needs to take such categorizing with agrain of salt, since the composites tend to overlap from one shortstory to the next. These subgenres are: short story sequence, shortstory cycle, short story cluster, and novella collection.

GeorgeSaunders’ “Tenth of December” is seen as a collection of shortstories characterized by modernism and modern characters in limbo.The characters tend to move from the past towards the future.According to Nagel (123), the ten stories in the collection are toldin first person. Conversations and thoughts ramble, when read, theyseem to have started an hour ago before the reader emerges. The styleused here is postmodernism since the author’s scaffolding revealshumor and heart, those stories that are actually about anythingbeyond their own gleaming bolts and nuts. The characters used hereare in limbo that is they possess flexibility in language, socialcriticism, and the moral ambition of entertaining the dark humor ofthe postmodern era.

Thecharacters in the collection are often perk on the outward, peakspositive thinking language, self-improvement and inside, they areterrified, wracked, lonely, guilt and passionate. This exemplifies amore traditional humanist in the author’s use of fiction, whichpulls the characters in limbo from traditional setting towardspostmodernism with interests in consumerism. The threshold in thiscase is on the collection of what might feel like a set of weightlessconception into something that is more engaging. In conclusion, theauthor’s short stories have everything – the flexibility of socialcriticism, language, and moral ambition, and dark humor which makesit a must red.


Brown,Mark. George Saunders becomes first winner of UK`s newest literaryprize. Arts Correspondent, UK, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/mar/10/george-saunders-tenth-of-december-first-winner-folio-prize

Clark,Alex. George Saunders: `The things we felt about American culturecouldn`t be reached by simple realism. It had to be a little nutty`,The Guardian, US, 2014. Retrieved fromhttp://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/mar/13/george-saunders-folio-prize-winner-interview

Cowles,Gregory. Rays of Hope: ‘Tenth of December’ by George Saunders.The New York Times, New York, 2013. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/03/books/review/tenth-of-december-by-george-saunders.html?_r=1

Igram,Forest. Representative short story cycles of the twentieth century:studies in a literary genre. New Orleans: Loyola University Press,1971. Print

Kennedy,J G. Modern American Short Story Sequences: Composite Fictions andFictive Communities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.Print.

Mann,Susan G. The Short Story Cycle: A Genre Companion and ReferenceGuide. New York: Greenwood Press, 1989. Print.

Nagel,James. The Contemporary American Short-Story Cycle: The EthnicResonance of Genre. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press,2001. Print