Tenth of December by George Saunders
Random House • $26 • ISBN 9780812993806
Pubbed January 8, 2013
The year has just begun, and right out of the starting gate, the New York Times is calling George Saunders’ new collection of short stories “the best book you’ll read this year.” Saunders is often considered a “writer’s writer,” but it’s possible that Tenth of December may do for Saunders what This Is How You Lose Her did for Junot Díaz—excite a brand new audience and bring him brand new recognition as one of the most brilliant writers of our age.
I started to get excited about the collection back in December when I picked up a copy of The Best American Short Stories 2012, which features titular story “Tenth of December,” published in The New Yorker. Editor Tom Perrotta enjoyed the “poignant and very funny” story for the “vague kinship” he felt for the character Wallace, the young, lonely schoolboy who encounters a dying man on a frozen lake.
And then I got even more excited when I started giggling over the style sheet used in-house by the book’s editors and production team (how else will you know how to edit “thrashfest”?).
Read on for an excerpt from “Tenth of December.”
The pale boy with unfortunate Prince Valiant bangs and cub-like mannerisms hulked to the mudroom closet and requisitioned Dad’s white coat. Then requisitioned the boots he’d spray-painted white. Painting the pellet gun white had been a no. That was a gift from Aunt Chloe. Every time she came over he had to haul it out so she could make a big stink about the woodgrain.
Today’s assignation: walk to the pond, ascertain beaver dam. Likely he would be detained. By that species that lived among the old rock wall. They were small but, upon emerging, assumed certain proportions. And gave chase. This was just their methodology. His aplomb threw them loops. He knew that. And reveled it. He would turn, level the pellet gun, intone: Are you aware of the usage of this human implement?
They were Netherworlders. Or Nethers. They had a strange bond with him. Sometimes for whole days he would just nurse their wounds. Occasionally, for a joke, he would shoot one in the butt as it fled. Who henceforth would limp for the rest of its days. Which could be as long as an additional nine million years.
Safe inside the rock wall, the shot one would go, Guys, look at my butt.
As a group, all would look at Gzeemon’s butt, exchanging sullen glances of: Gzeemon shall indeed be limping for the next nine million years, poor bloke.
Because yes: Nethers tended to talk like that guy in Mary Poppins.
What are you reading today?