My book club read George Saunders’ collection of short stories, The Tenth of December. So good. He drills down deep into matters of human connection and purpose with a vision that in some stories evokes, in my mind, Walker Percy. At times, there are mysteries about what exactly is going on and what exactly this or that process or machine or war is all about, but all the better to help the reader be pulled into the world on the level of shared experience, rather than just curious observer.
A Goodreads reviewer took these stories to task for not having any heart, and, well, in my experience (and the experience of our group), the opposite was the case.
These stories are all about rescuing other human beings and what we have to overcome in order to acknowledge the humanity of those needing rescue and our own reluctance to reach out, risk and sacrifice.
There is so much (well, some) chatter that abounds concerning..where is the faith in fiction? Where is the Catholic fiction? As much as I’m interested in both religion and fiction and as much affinity as I have for 20th-century Catholic-themed and sourced fiction, those conversations don’t interest me much. I’m more interested in finding writers like Saunders (way after the rest of the world did, of course) and being engaged by the questions he poses in such arresting ways.
If you want a taste of what Saunders is all about, these stories from that collection are available online for free:
Here is a blog post with links to several Saunders stories – three are in this collection: “The Tenth of December,” “Puppy,” “The Semplica-Girl Diaries.” (although with the last, the version in the book is longer than that which was published in The New Yorker.) You can read “Victory Lap” here. The story, “Home” is here. The last couple of paragraphs of “Home” are as deeply human and true as anything in contemporary fiction.