George Saunders, Tenth of December


Reading Saunders’ story collection now, while I finish up Roth’s novel.   Still have a few stories to go, including most of “The Semplica Girl Diaries,” but a few initial thoughts.

Great storyteller.  The one-page story “Sticks” is ridiculously moving, and without ever being sentimental.  “Puppy” is also moving in a different way, but the source of the emotional charge in both stories seems to be the narrative structure itself.  He’s ferociously economical; everything advances the story and the theme.  Funny, too.  Funny and tragic.  A more stylistically inventive Vonnegut.

I don’t know if I love any of the characters, but that was true with Vonnegut too.  (Except that I did love Eliot Rosewater, back when I discovered him as a teenager.)    Great range of narrative voices, too.  The shifting language of “Escape from Spider Head,” the choppy journal entries of “Semplica Girls.” But “Sticks” is still probably my favorite right now.  Brutally short, unsentimenal, unsettling, with no gimmick at all, just the strange and moving object at the center of the story.


About the author

Tom Howard

Tom Howard is the author of Fierce Pretty Things (Indiana University Press, 2019).

He received his MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Fierce Pretty Things won the 2018 Blue Light Books Fiction Prize, and his individual stories have won the Ninth Letter Literary Award in Fiction, the Indiana Review Fiction Prize, the Robert and Adele Schiff Award for Fiction, the Carve Magazine Prose & Poetry Contest, the Tobias Wolff Award in Fiction, the Innovative Short Fiction Prize, the Willow Springs Ficiton Prize, the Rash Award in Fiction, and the Robert J. DeMott Award for Short Prose.

He lives with his wife in Arlington, Virginia.

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