Tenth of December: Stories by George Saunders
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I was lucky to score a review copy of the audio of these stories from Random House (you can listen to a 4 minute excerpt on their website). The stories are read by the author, which I really love hearing in his voice. He has a somewhat dry tone that lends well the simultaneous whimsy and morbidity that are found in his stories. I have read several volumes of Saunders' short stories, and this combination of light with dark is his style, but he is able to make it fresh with each new story.
The Semplica-Girl Diaries, linked here on the New Yorker website, is probably the most awkward in audio form. The entire story is told in journal entry form, skipping out on verbs, easier to read in print than to hear, where it feels choppy.
On the other hand, one of my favorite stories was "Victory Lap," because the way the author reads the female teenager is entertaining. She is always interjecting phrases like "pas de chat, pas de chat, changement, changement," in between observations of the neighborhood and thoughts on her life. It becomes easy to see her in your mind, prancing around and doing silly kicks. It made me laugh multiple times, no matter the ending.
My other favorite story is "Escape from Spiderhead," about inmates forced into medical testing, scary. These are absolutely worth the listen. In my opinion, Saunders is one of the greatest craftsmen of the short story.