George Saunders – Tenth of December


Represented by the eight of spades, this is my 21st story form my 2014 Short Story Reading Challenge, “Deal Me In.” My complete roster of 2014 stories may be found here.

This was only my second foray into the writings of George Saunders. Last year, I found his story “Escape from Spiderhead” largely incomprehensible and never even posted about it as part of DMI2013 (though, in its honor, I did pick a spider-laden eight of spades image to use in this post). This story kind of started out the same way for me, but I think, before it ended, I was just starting to “get” Saunders (pictured below)  a little better.


Saunders seems to be one of those writers who leaves most of the work “connecting the dots” of a story to the reader. He doesn’t spell out many details, at least specifically, or maybe they are only revealed slowly. Encountering this technique has often made me read a story twice, the second time enabling me to pick up on clues that were not obvious on the first pass. I must say this seems an unfair thing to do to your readers, though. What you thought was a story of 22 pages is really a reading burden of 44 pages. How inconsiderate! 🙂

I must say I liked the structure of this story, though. Told from two viewpoints, one of a young boy – a social outcast with a vivid world of his imagination, in which he is acting out an adventure when he sees an older man. We learn the man is suffering from a brain tumor and has ‘escaped’ his caretakers as part of his own adventure manufactured by his own vivid imagination. The boy tries vainly to incorporate seeing the older man into his fantasy adventure, but an emergency situation arises which, at least temporarily, has the power to yank them both back into the real world.

I own this story as part of the The Best Short Stories of 2012 anthology. (It was in the 2011 edition of this series where I read my other Saunders story)

The Tenth of December is also available online at
You may need a New Yorker subscription (I don’t think I was logged in as such when I found this page, but sometimes it seems to ‘remember’ me from my previous visit, so maybe it only let me view it because I’m a digital subscriber)

It’s also available as part of Saunders’ collection of the same name.


(Below: one of several go to short story anthologies in my library)



  1. May 25, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    That card makes me squirm. *thinks about palming or, worse, backpalming that card and squirms some more*

    Started reading Tenth of December and might be *spared* reading it twice by your review, but I think I’ll definitely enjoy reading it once.


    • Jay said,

      May 28, 2014 at 12:25 pm

      I’ll be reading him again. I suspect he may be worth the effort of getting used to his style. 🙂


  2. May 25, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    Generally I don’t like those stories where the author leaves so much work to the reader – but this one does sound interesting. And as @Katherine Nabity says, you’ve done some of the work for us!


  3. Cedar Station said,

    May 25, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    This entire collection is great! Well worth reading. 🙂


    • Jay said,

      May 28, 2014 at 12:26 pm

      Glad to hear it was well-received by you. I may invest in it. As I said above, I’m not giving up on him yet…


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