George Saunders’ Tenth of December Book Review by Jessica Thompson

tenth of december by george saundersFeel free to shame me in the comments because I am embarrassingly late to the George Saunders game. Confession: Tenth Of December is the first book of his I’ve read. I know, I know, it’s awful. Trust me, I feel bad. I plan on going back and reading everything he wrote, in order, and (probably) writing about it all here. Confession number two: Not only had I not read Saunders, I hadn’t even heard of George (calling him by his first name so as to practice for our inevitable friendship) until last year, when someone read a story of mine and said it was George Saunders-like.

At the time, having never heard of him, and being someone with a bit of an ego, I was offended (!) that the reader lacked to see the originality in my writing. Now that I’ve read George’s stories online and in Tenth of December, I recognize what a big compliment she was paying me. George plays with form in enviable ways. He writes characters with enviable originality, variability, and detail. Also, he is both weird and enviably successful at the same time. Can you tell I liked Tenth of December so much my happy feelings about it soured to the negative side as I was overcome with envy? Well, they did. George’s writing did remind me of my own–just enough to infuriate me because his is way, way better. Like, I’ve been writing the shitty version of something I didn’t know existed. I’ve been trying, and failing, to write Tenth of December-style stories without even knowing it. Life is so unfair!

IRL, my tactic for dealing with envy is to befriend the person I am envious of. It usually works out pretty well–I am happy, not upset, when my friends succeed. Also, befriending people who have what I want is smart. They know how to get it so they can help me get it. What I’m leading up to is, the only answer to this situation is for me and George Saunders to become best friends. George was recently featured in a Chicago Magazine article.  Reading more about him as a person confirmed the necessity of our impending friendship in my mind.

So here it is, George Saunders and Jessica Thompson should be friends because they both:

  • are from Chicago
  • are fans of Wilco
  • almost didn’t go to college
  • went broke in their twenties (okay, fine, I’m still broke–you guys are such sticklers!)
  • got college degrees unrelated to creative writing
  • are working class
  • write stories that are very similar according to at least one source
  • really want to be friends (rounded up–at least 50% true)

See? It’s almost inevitable. Still, this site is called weirderary, not FriendshipWithGeorgeSaundersary [Ed note: Though we could always change it. Thoughts, TJ? Colleen?] so here’s a new list.

Tenth of December is weird because it contains:

  • a kid who isn’t allowed to swear and keeps thinking phrases such as “flake-fuck the pale vestige with a proddering dick-knee”
  • a futuristic story in which people can adjust their emotions via a device called a MobiPak
  • one story that is simply an email from a chipper manager to his team
  • an auction of Local Celebrities where middle-aged men strut and flex on stage then sit in a cardboard jail
  • a man who has trouble keeping secrets after taking a drug that makes him speak like a knight
  • a sad story. That might not be weird in and of itself, but no one warned me how sad the title story was so I read it at the gym and ended up crying while using the elliptical machine and that, according to the other gym patrons’ facial expressions, was super weird.

If any of  you haven’t read Tenth of December, do it now! And if you’re George Saunders, send me an email. The next time we’re both in Chicago, we can grab some Italian beef and listen to tunes.

Jessica Thompson is a fiction writer from Chicago. Her writing has been published in theEEEL and revolver. She is an editor of weirderary. (website, twitter, instagram)