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George Saunders was born in Texas ,he received a B.S. in geophysical engineering from Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. Of his scientific background, Saunders has said, "... any claim I might make to originality in my fiction is really just the result of this odd background: basically, just me working inefficiently, with flawed tools, in a mode I dont have sufficient background to really understand. Like if you put a welder to designing dresses."
In 1988, he was awarded an M.A. in creative writing from Syracuse University; while there, he met Paula Redick, a fellow writer, who would become his wife. Saunders recalled, "we [got] engaged in three weeks, a Syracuse Creative Writing Program record that, I believe, still stands."
Regarding his influences, Saunders has written:
I really love Russian writers, especially from the 19th and early 20th Century: Gogol, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Babel. I love the way they take on the big topics. Im also inspired by a certain absurdist comic tradition that would include influences like Mark Twain, Daniil Kharms, Groucho Marx, Monty Python, Steve Martin, Jack Handey, etc. And then, on top of that, I love the strain of minimalist American fiction writing: Sherwood Anderson, Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver, Tobias Wolff.(R.1)
Tenth of December is a collection of short stories by American author George Saunders.
A young girl named Alison is kidnapped three days before her birthday. Kyle, a boy who lives nearby whose parents enforce very strict household rules, sees the event unfold and must decide whether to help Alison (who used to be his friend but stopped hanging out with him after becoming popular) or to ignore the situation to keep himself safe.
Parents fill various roles in “Victory Lap.” For Alison, they’re an endless supply of comfort and love. For Kyle, they’re controlling to the point of suffocation. For the stranger, they’re a source of trauma. For all three, the voice of a parent is one that won’t go away, for better or worse.
Perhaps this is the lesson of “Victory Lap”: that we will forever hear our parents’ voices. However we choose to interpret this story, one thing is clear. Access to these characters’ honest inner voices — at times painful or embarrassing — is made possible through the distinctive narrative style. Saunders has developed this point of view into something of a tool, one that lets us hear the characters’ thoughts in their purest form while simultaneously giving the third-person narrator a voice, too. This masterful combination of introspection and storytelling is the invention that makes “Victory Lap” work.(R.3)
Meter-reader sneak into Alison’s house and kidnap her, she was saved by Kyle throwing the geode . Alison’s parents give her positive love and encouragement to deal with any worse situation. Alison learns to have a positive view to see this kidnapping. Kyle’s parents give him the strict education. Kyle tried to get rid of this suffocated strength and listen to his heart and save Alison. Mervin has been marked as stupid, and make the kidnapping failed for lock the van.
Geode:imply the courage to break the boundary of the past and strive for helping others.
A father has a tall pole in the front yard that he constantly decorates for holidays. His child recounts life with his dad and how the man eventually lost his sanity after his wife died and began to decorate the pole in bizarre ways.
Decorating the pole is a talisman for his dad to go through good or worse via decorating. After his dad passed away, they sold the house to the young couple who yanked out the pole and left it by the road on garbage day. All the good or worse will be gone with the wind. The seeds of meanness will no more bloom within them.
Talisman: imply we need a place for our inner peace.
Two women, Marie and Callie, lead very different lives. Marie has a happy but cluttered life with her husband, whom she loves, and her children. They have a very messy home and constantly adopt pets. Callie has a different life. She has a husband whose job is to sell animals like kittens and puppies to people. When they are not sold, he kills them and moves on to the next sale. Callie wants nothing more than to please him, so she accepts this behavior. She also has a son, Bo, who runs away and darts in between cars on the interstate. In order to keep him safe, she chains him to a tree like a dog in the backyard. She sees this as a way to keep him from escaping, because he loves it outside and hates it in the house. The two women meet when Callie tries to sell one of her husbands puppies to Maries family, her neighbors. Maries children love it and Marie wants to make them happy so usually accepts and buys an animal, but after seeing Bo out the window chained to a tree, she decides against it and the puppys fate is later decided by Callie, who leaves it in a field to die.
"Escape from Spiderhead"
Because he was convicted of a crime, Jeff has been sent to an experimental prison where inhabitants are guinea pigs for a man named Ray Abnesti, a sort of warden who develops pharmaceuticals. In an experiment to determine the strength of love, Abnesti puts Jeff in a room with a woman named Heather. Neither finds the other very attractive until a drug is administered and they suddenly fall deeply in love with each other and have sex. This continues until the drug stops being administered, when they suddenly lose all love for each other. The process is repeated with Jeff and a woman named Rachel. The next day, Abnesti brings both Heather and Rachel into a room and asks Jeff to decide which woman should be drugged with Darkenfloxx, a drug that causes extreme mental and physical distress. Jeff wants no one to be hurt, but has no preference as to which should endure the drug. Satisfied, Abnesti decides not to administer the drug. Later, Jeff finds himself in a room with another man who he realizes also had sex with Rachel and Heather. He realizes that Abnesti is asking one of the women which one of the men should be given Darkenfloxx. The same result happens each time, and the drug is never administered. Later, after Abnesti presents the love drug he is developing to his superiors, he says he must go into greater depth and gives Heather Darkenfloxx, saying that Jeff must say exactly what he feels while he watches Heather suffer in order to prove he has no romantic feelings for her. But the Darkenfloxx is so damaging that Heather commits suicide to escape the pain. When Abnesti reveals that he will do the same thing to Rachel to determine whether Jeff has a romantic attachment, Jeff refuses to participate. He insists that the drug should not be used. Abnesti leaves to get a warrant to administer drugs to Jeff that will force him to comply. To prevent Rachel from being tortured, Jeff administers Darkenfloxx to himself, and while under its influence kills himself.
This is how I felt the first time I read “Escape from Spiderhead,” by George Saunders. The long and short of it is that this story is about a man who takes part in a clinical trial where different “drips” test his feelings and control his emotions. It opens with a character named Abnesti asking the narrator, “Drip on?”
The narrator has something called a MobiPak™ attached to his body, and that’s what the drips feed into. We get acquainted with a few different drips in this story — Verbaluce™, ED556, Vivistif™, Darkenfloxx™ — and through the narrator’s describing how his behaviors change once they drip in, we sort of understand what they do. But it’s never explained when in the world we actually are. We eventually learn that the narrator wears a MobiPak™ because he committed a heinous crime, but this still doesn’t really get you anywhere. Our world, as far as I’m aware, doesn’t condone the use of prisoners as guinea pigs. Saunders never tells us the reasons why his world does.
“Escape from Spiderhead” is a dystopia, which is why it first occurred to me when thinking of Maniac. But short stories more generally have a way of keeping the reader at arm’s length, uncanny worlds or not. Around the same time I was reading Tenth of December, the collection to which “Escape from Spiderhead” belongs, I was reading Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, no stories of which have otherworldly elements to them. People have conversations in bars, in bingo halls, in bedrooms, then often leave the rooms, or go to sleep. Some of these stories, though, I found more difficult, more demanding of a second or third read, than “Escape from Spiderhead.” In Carver’s stories, you’re dropped in in medias res and taken out that way. Who are these people, how have they come to be here? Where are they going? You don’t get to know.
“Escape from Spiderhead” didn’t situate itself in a world, which forced me to try to do that for it, by examining the narrator’s speech, the things he saw. One result was that I read this story closer than I had been the other ones. Another result was that I became much less interested in the drips, and much more invested in the narrator. Saunders’ story asks the question, can someone who is capable of violence be equally capable of love? I didn’t need to know what world I was in to care about that question.
Maniac, in all its pink and blue hues, its psychedelic glory, does a very similar thing to Saunders. It waves this flashy thing in your face and then doesn’t tell you what it is. That flashy thing isn’t what the story’s about.
How did reality get to be this way? If you’re still asking that of Maniac by the second or third episode, let me give it to you straight: the answer is not coming. By the middle of the series, my friend and I realized that. We realized we weren’t going to understand why Annie and Owen’s reality looks like our present-day mashed up with the 1980s mashed up with 2050s. By that point, though, we didn’t care. We were already in it. The story didn’t give us exposition. It told us, this will end soon, before you’re ready, so take a closer look. This is all you get.(R.25)
Jeff is a suspect and was sent to the experimental prison to prove his innocent, he needs to go through all the experimental drips. Finally , he tried to commit suicide to get rid of the frame of the secular bias. Jeff doesn’t want anyone else to be tortured by the drug, he commits suicide.
Drip: imply we crucified others without any heart.
A letter from a man named Todd, the boss of a group of men who do mysterious work in Room 6, encourages his staff to have a positive attitude about their work, which is never named but must be guessed by the reader.
An unsuccessful antique store owner is involved in a charity event in which he must dress up and walk down a runway in order to earn money. One of the competitors in the event is Larry Donfrey, a successful realtor for whom Al has very bitter and jealous feelings. He suppresses his hatred for Donfrey by making up elaborate schemes in his head in which the two become good friends and Al gains the respect he craves from the town.
"The Semplica Girl Diaries"
A middle-class father attempts to please his daughter Lilly and compete with a wealthier family by buying her various lavish gifts, including Semplica Girls, women trafficked from third-world countries to be used as human lawn ornaments. His sensitive younger daughter Eva frees the Semplica Girls, a felony.
It is a simple story of a dad, ‘Having just turned 40’, trying to do the right thing by his girls, but doing the wrong thing for everyone. The narrator’s takes his daughter Lily to a school- girl party that has got everything they’ve not. ‘That treehouse is twice the actual size of our house’. Ha. Ha. But it’s no joke. The diarist is particularly impressed ‘on the front of the house, with sweeping lawns, largest SG arrangement ever seen, all in white, white smocks blowing in breeze’. His daughter’s birthday is in a few days and she’s asked for a few classical figurines that cost a few hundred bucks that the narrator has not got, but he maxes out his credit cards before pay-check day in an attempt to keep her happy. It doesn’t work, but then a windfall, a $10 000 lottery-card win. He goes for the best little-girl party ever for the best little girl. He splashes out even leasing four SG units to hang on microfiche on his front lawn. SG units are Third World poor people who live in such terrible conditions the diarist tells us they are happy to come to America, have a wire put through their head, which doesn’t hurt at all, and hang on that wire for the duration of their contract. It’s a win-win situation, until someone cuts the microfiche and they shuffle off, still attached together and the sheriff explains that there’s some strange groups intent on liberating SG’s and explains that, no, they don’t usually get them back. The owner of the leased SG units also explains that if he had read the contract he was responsible for them and would have to pay all costs. Lose-lose, but a lesson learned?(r.30)
"The Semplica Girl Diaries" gives us a window into a middle class life thats constantly striving to do whatever it takes to match up with everyone else,”
Lilly’s father wanna give her a secret surprise party more lavish than her friend Leslie via scratch-off ticket. Lilly and Eve are not fond of father’s endless disbursement. Eve even become very moody. Eve heard that if touch the SG will be brave, coincidentally, she loose the SG and microline so that the thief get a chance to steal the SG, Lilly’s family need to pay the fine for the SG lease or need to move out of the house. They even need to ask for father in law’s help, it’s so embarrassed.
SG: imply the temptation of the greed and the parents’ helicopter love to children.
A soldier named Mikey returns to live with his mother and has to learn to adapt to the new world.
Mikey found no home after he is back from the war. Everything changed. What is more worse? Battle or after battle. Ma got divorced and support no place for him to live, exwife doesn’t want Mikey touch her baby.
Mickey’s mom and ex-wife didn’t show their concern to Mickey who is back from the war，It makes Mickey feel so upset and offend ex-wife by spiking the pitcher down for ex-wife’ Renee’s refuing Mickey’s touching to the baby. Later, Mickey shows his apology, Renee and Ryne, Ma and Harris all back to see Mickey. Where love is is the home.
"My Chivalric Fiasco"
Ted, a janitor, witnesses the rape of fellow employee Martha by Don Murray, the boss of the Medieval theme park where Ted works. Because both Martha and Don want to avoid embarrassment, Ted is given "hush money" in the form of a promotion: he is now a pacing guard. For his new job, he must take KnightLyfeⓇ, a drug that cause him to think, act, and speak like a chivalric knight. Because of his chivalry, he eventually reveals to others what happened to Martha. When Don learns of this, Ted is fired.
Ted is a janitor who is the only bread winner in his family. He saw his colleague raped by his boss. He took the hush money in the form of a promotion as a pacing guard.ergo, he sealed his mouth, For his new job, he needs to take a drug to more like a chivalric knight and empower her limit to expose the truth, turns out he lost his job.
Coat: imply to help others at any cost, even you are down and out, we will find the meaning of life and reincarnate.
"Tenth of December"
A cancer patient seeking to euthanize himself in the woods meets a boy who teaches the patient about himself.(r.2)
"Tenth of December" is one of the freshest and most compelling contemporary short stories, but it is almost impossible to talk about the story and its meaning without making it sound trite: something along the lines of, "A boy helps a suicidal man find the will to live," or, "A suicidal man learns to appreciate the beauty of life."
Its not that the themes are wildly unique—yes, the little things in life beautiful, and no, life isnt always neat and clean. Whats impressive is Saunders ability to present familiar themes as if were seeing them for the first time.
Below are some of the features of "Tenth of December" that particularly stand out; perhaps theyll resonate for you, too.
Clive: I hope we can do these three. I think they are perhaps the best stories and certainly I think Tenth of December is the most moving story. I would also suggest ladies, these stories are not literal stories, they are surreal stories and observations of American life. They are not charming or sweet, they are more bittersweet observations of lives that have come off the rails. They are stories of struggle and surrealism and what happens when people slip between reality and fantasy.
Anyway, I have read these three today, and I made some observations. I will try to be there for the meeting
※T※How to Analyze a Short Story(shared by Slyvia)
睿青文學講義(001) How to Analyze a Short Story
2. 布局 (setting, 何時何地)
A. How is the setting created? Consider geography, weather, time of day, social
B. What role does “setting” play in the story?
Is it an important part of the plot or theme?
Or is it just a backdrop against which the action takes place?
C. Study the time period, which is also part of the setting
‐‐When was the story written?
‐‐Does it take place in the present, the past, or the future?
‐‐How does the time period affect the language, atmosphere or social
circumstances of the short story?
A. Who is the main character?
B. Are the main character and other characters described through dialogue – by the
way they speak (dialect or slang for instance)?
C. Has the author described the characters by physical appearance, thoughts and
feelings, and interaction (the way they act towards others)?
D. Are they static/flat characters who do not change?
Are they dynamic/round characters who DO change?
E. What type of characters are they?
‐‐ What qualities stand out?
‐‐ Are they stereotypes?
F. Are the characters believable?
‐‐Plot and structure
4. 故事情節 (plot)
‐‐What is the most important event?
‐‐How is the plot structured? Is it linear, chronological or does it move around?
‐‐Is the plot believable?
5. 敘述者和觀點(Narrator and Point of view)
A. Who is the narrator or speaker in the story?
B. Does the author speak through the main character?
C. Is the story written in the first person “I” point of view?
Is the story written in a detached third person “he/she” point of view?
D. Is there an “all‐knowing” third person who can reveal what all the characters are
thinking and doing at all times and in all places?
A. How would you describe the main conflict?
B. Is it an internal conflict within the character?
C. Is it an external conflict caused by the surroundings or environment the main
character finds himself/herself in?
A. Is there a turning point in the story?
B. When does the climax take place?
The three stories that are chosen are as follows.
1. Tenth of December
2. Victory Lap
If we have extra time, we will discuss the follows.
4. Escape from Spiderhead
5. My Chivalric Fiasco
Tenth of December 分析(01)
Tenth of December 分析(02)
桑德斯故事中的男孩羅賓在樹林裡漫步，想像自己是英雄。 他在追蹤想像中的虛構生物的森林裡跋涉，這個生物叫做Nethers，他們綁架了他的誘惑同學Suzanne Bledsoe。
在故事中，53歲的絕症患者唐Eber在腦海中也進行了虛構的對話。 他正在追求自己的想像中的英雄 - 在這種情況下，進入曠野凍死，以免他的妻子和孩子在他的病情進展中照顧他的痛苦。
他認為他永遠無法實現的所有夢想（比如發表他的“關於同情心的全國性重要講話”），這與打敗線民並拯救蘇珊娜似乎沒有太大區別 - 即使艾伯還活著另一百年，這些幻想似乎也不會發生。
真實和想像之間運動的效果是夢幻般的和超現實的 - 只有在冰凍景觀中才會提高效果，尤其是當Eber進入體溫過低的幻覺時。
Tenth of December 分析(03)
即使從一開始，羅賓的幻想也無法從現實中徹底擺脫。 他想像那些虛無妄will的人會折磨他，但只能“以他實際可以接受的方式”。 他想像著蘇珊娜會邀請他去泳池，告訴他：“如果你穿著襯衫游泳，這很酷。”
Eber也在追求一種他最終不得不放棄的不切實際的幻想。 最後的疾病將他自己的繼父變成了一個他認為只是“那個”的野蠻生物。 Eber - 已經糾纏於自己的能力不斷下降，以找到準確的詞 - 決心避免類似的命運。 他想：
Tenth of December 分析(04)
這個故事中的救援精彩交織在一起。 Eber從寒冷中拯救羅賓（如果不是從實際的池塘裡），但如果羅賓沒有試圖通過為他穿上外套來拯救艾伯，他就永遠不會落到池塘裡。 反過來，羅賓派遣他的母親去接他，從而將艾伯從寒冷中拯救出來。 但羅賓已經通過落入池塘救了艾伯自殺。
迫切需要拯救羅賓迫使Eber進入現在。 而現在似乎有助於整合Eber的過去和現在的各種自我。 桑德斯寫道：
Miscellaneous findings about Tenth of December by Slyvia
Resembling stream of consciousness, Saunderian inner dialogues construct the world of conflicts. His writing style is so unique with “the same brutal emotional honesty and unique use of language that makes a Saunders short story what it is.” (Media.com)
"Tenth of December" (2012) simplified as “12/10”
An unpopular boy with an active imagination goes for a walk in the forest, looking for a chance to be a hero. Meanwhile, an un-named cancer patient goest to the woods to kill himself, but meets a boy who teaches him more about himself than he ever knew before and changes the way in which he thinks about his decision to take his own life.
" Vitory Lap" (2009) simplified as “V/L”
Eber struggles with his disease and realizes that he would prefer euthanasia to waiting for a long drawn out and painful death. He has made up his mind to take his own life but when he meets a boy in the woods where he had intended to end it he finds that he still has a lot of desire for life.
Robin, a big-hearted young boy, is an imaginative boy who wants to be a hero in his imagined attempt to rescue fictional girl.
@Allison - "V/L"
Allison is the victim of a kidnapping, witnessed by her erstwhile friend Kyle. Allison used to be friendly with Kyle but has recently begun to hang out with the popular crowd, and now she doesnt really hang out with him at all.
@Kyle - "V/L"
Kyle is one of Saunder’s silent witnesses who wants to turn a blind eye to what he has seen. He is ruled with a rod of iron at home. He has a curfew, which he breaks, and in doing so witnesses Allisons kidnap. Kyle is a good kid who now has a big dilemma: If he stays quiet about what he saw, Allison might never be found. If he tells, then he might get into trouble.
Todd seems like a nice guy caught in a morally ambiguous situation—addresses his staff, asking them to remain positive in their work in order to enjoy it. But in fact, positive thinking is amplified to conceal the inner workings of neoliberalism and the abuse of employer-to-employee relations
Speicific questions for the selected stories
S01. How does the Sander deal with the issue of suicide? (12/10)
p.217: you are indeed a worthy adversary
we will be accepted each other and found out the self-acceptance can help us face our flaw more easily.
S02. What is the symbol of Eber’s coat? (12/10)
Coat: imply to help others at any cost, even you are down and out, we will find the meaning of life and reincarnate.
S03. What was the ray of hope given to Eber throughout his life? (12/10)
p.249:many drops of goodness is how it came to him-many drops of goodness, is how it came to him-many drops of happy-of good fellowship.
Saving other’s life is the fountain of happiness
S04. What is Saunder’s use of the perpetrator in such a two-person plot? (V/L)
Geode:imply the courage to break the boundary of the past and strive for helping others.
S05. Did Allyson have a princess syndrome? Why did she stop where she shouldn’t? (V/L)
Meter-reader sneak into Alison’s house and kidnap her, she was saved by Kyle throwing the geode . Alison’s parents give her positive love and encouragement to deal with any worse situation. Alison learns to have a positive view to see this kidnapping. Mervin has been marked as stupid, and make the kidnapping failed for lock the van.
S06. Why didn’t Kyle just call 911? What was the scout boy worrying about? (V/L)
Kyle’s parents give him the strict education. Kyle tried to get rid of this suffocated strength and listen to his heart and save Alison.
S07. What attitudes did Todd hold towards Andy and Janice? Positive or negative?
p.84: The positive mental state will help you clean that shelf well and quickly, thus accomplishing your purpose of getting paid.
p.85:minimize the grumbling and self-doubt regarding the tasks we must sometimes do around here that maybe aren’t on the surface al the pleasant.
S08. What personalities are shown in Todd’s expressions (long sentences)? (EXHT)
p.85: What would be harder is: doing that with a negative attitude.
S09. What strategies did Todd have on his employees? What is the purpose (EXHT)
Clean the shelf=clean your self, be positive and will bring great power
To cultivate a better attitude
G01. Why do you think so many of the characters turn a blind eye to the amorality
What points of view do you hold when you encounter the situation?
Will you be judgmental? Will you be insensitive to others’ need?
p.43:Love was liking someone how he was and doing things to help him get even better.
p.230: Every step was a victory. He had to remember that
what is the different from heaven and hell, they all use long chopsticks to eat, but, in heave, they help each other. In hell. Neither do they.
G02. “To be or not to be/ that is a question” When facing the dilemma of your
For such a reader you, are you a thinker who creates the stories told by your mind? OR does a thinking process creates your illusion?
P.42:what did it matter, drowned in a bag or starved in the corn?
p.43: Love was liking someone how he was and doing things to help him get even better
G03. What is your observation of the physical danger intrudes that usually happen to
All the physical danger comes from the people who are familiar to you. We do need to pay a great tention to it
What is partial truth? What is the whole truth? Let’s get a puzzle to re-write the stories with love and connection.
p.163:Wife was just wisp of thing even at best./ if no love and understanding, everything will be a wisp
p.119: To Work is a privilege./to work is a self accpolishment
p.119. Do not really like rich people, as they make us poor people feel dopey and inadequate. /rich people has the privilege to help others.
※Windfall can bring fortune/ Windfall may fall into winfall of greed. Eva and Lilly wanna hold her father back from squander the money to celebrate Lilly’s b-day. Love is nothing to do with money, but something to do with sharing.(The Semplica Girl Diaries)
Review by Clive
“Victory Lap,” is also the first to appear in the text. “Victory Lap” is about two teenagers, Alison and Kyle, and what happens when a stranger tries to abduct and rape Alison. Reading the story’s opening, the first thing we notice is the unique narrative style:
Three days shy of her fifteenth birthday, Alison Pope paused at the top of the stairs.
The story begins with the perspective of Alison Pope, a teenage girl who is almost fifteen. We find her daydreaming – imagining herself in a grand ball looking for her “special one”, rejecting potential suitors for the tiniest of flaws. She is a happy child, in love with the world and herself. Alison thinks she is special, not as special as Helen Keller, Mother Teresa, or Mrs. Roosevelt, at least not yet anyway. Her sheltered life hasn’t given her much life experience, so she is confident her life will be perfect.
The story then turns to Kyle, Alison’s neighbor of the same age. Kyle’s imagination seems dominated by fear of the “directives” or rules his parents have imposed upon him. Indeed, Kyle plays a game in his mind he refers to as, “WHAT IF…RIGHT NOW?” during which he panics that if his father had walked in the door at the moment, he would reprimand Kyle for leaving a trail of microclods when he returns from cross country practice (11). Furthermore, even when Kyle thinks about “Major Treat day” and the rewards of living under his parents’ rules, his joy is immediately clouded by the fact that he will have to fight with his dad as to what he will be allowed to watch during his “free” TV minutes (13).He is also a sheltered child, but his parents keep Kyle on a tight leash. Kyle gets ‘work points’ and ‘chore points’ which can be cashed in for treats, and while fulfilling one of his chores Kyle sees Alison getting kidnapped by a meter reader. Alison’s attempted kidnapper seems consumed by fear that he will fail. This man, who dresses as if he is a meter reader, practices his speech “both in his head and on the recorder,” thus suggesting a lack of confidence in his abilities (19). Additionally, readers must question this man’s psychological state, as he imagines Melvin’s “look of hot disappointment that had always preceded an ass whooping” when he realizes he has failed to keep the side door of the van unlocked (19). This fantasy is made even more troubling given that Melvin has been dead for fifteen years. Thus, it should come as little surprise that this man’s fear of Melvin and his fear of failure in general force him to contemplate his own suicide later in the story. The highlight for me in Victory Lap was the internal monologue Kyle has with himself on whether or not to come to Alison’s rescue. Helping Alison would mean breaking his parents’ rule about not interfering with other people’s business. But not helping her would mean he would be known as the guy who had nothing FOREVER!
Victory Lap was a terrific read. The attempted abduction exposes both kids to the realities of adulthood. I wish that was not the case, and they had more time to enjoy their childhoods, but then again bubbles always do burst!
"Exhortation" opens up with what appears to be the heading of an e-mail: specifically, an e-mail sent by a certain Todd Birnie, a Divisional Director, about his staffs March performance. Initially, it appears that this is simply another poorly-motivated memo poorly trying to motivate a less-than-adequate workforce. However, Saunders leaves hints here and there that distort the image given to the readers imagination. "Exhortation" plays upon the psychology of the reader, and virtually entirely takes place in his or her imagination. After all, Todd only ever talks through the metaphor of "cleaning a shelf".
The first two hints the reader receives that something may be out of the ordinary are the opening sentence, and Todds description of "negative" motivation. "I would not like to characterize this as a plea, although it may start to sound like one," does not sound very motivating at all. And in Todds descriptions of being "negative" about cleaning the shelf, he often mentions the moral aspect of doing so, such as "moral niceties" or "minimizing self-doubt", stating that it would be "suicidal to let our progress down that path be impeded by neurotic second-guessing", and to forget "namby-pamby thoughts of right/wrong". By this point, the reader should be questioning what Todd and his staff actually do for a living. Theres also the question of Todds own sanity, when he mentions how "we took out Ricks patio" with a "sledgehammer" in a metaphoric effort to motivate his staff to be influenced by "gravity", just like the sledgehammer. The most questionable situation of this all comes in the form of Andys "miraculous numbers" from October. Surely it would motivate workers to raise one of them onto a position of honor, placing his success for all to see in some relaxing "break room". However, the reader suddenly hears of how "depressed" and "disconsolate" Andy has become; Todd simply assumes that this is the result of Andy "second-guessing his actions of October". Todd subsequently mentions "Room 6", that this is the room which "no one walks out of feeling perfectly okay", and that Andy worked in Room 6. At this point, alarm bells should be going off in the readers mind. "What are they doing? Why is Andy depressed? Whats in Room 6?" With the amount of importance Todd places in his staffs work, and how he praises "progress" above all else, regardless of the "moral niceties" of the situation, it appears Todd may be working for the same institution described in "Escape from Spiderhead". Todd is stuck between overbearing, intimidating superiors (i.e. "Hugh Blanchert himself") who refuse to let his "numbers fall", and a non-compliant workforce which feels demoralized because of their morals. Finally, Todd gives one last warning, stating that, "If we are unable to clean our assigned shelf, not only will someone else be brought in to clean that shelf, but we ourselves may find ourselves on that shelf, being that shelf, with someone else exerting themselves with good positive energy all over us."
Tenth of December, I struggled a lot with this story at first. It starts with Robin, a little boy who is constantly bullied at school. So his fantasies, in which he is a hero, has become key to his survival. On the day the story takes place, Robin is on a mission to save Suzanne from homeroom who has been kidnapped by “Netherlanders.”
This first bit was very slow moving for me, perhaps because fantasy isn’t a genre I like. The most transparently emotion-laden story in the book is perhaps the title story. In it, a boy and a middle-aged man are making their way through a patch of woods. The boy is simply enjoying himself, lost in fantasy, but we discover that the man is ill with cancer and has come to the woods to commit suicide. The man winds up rescuing the boy when he falls through the ice on a pond, and the man decides he wants to live, after all. The plot itself tugs pretty strongly at the heartstrings, but the language used to convey the suicidal man’s despair (Saunders hews pretty closely to the character’s stream of thought) bears an especially direct emotional weight at well:
Ouch, ouch. This was too much. He hadn’t cried after the surgeries or during the chemo, but he felt like crying now. It wasn’t fair. It happened to everyone supposedly but now it was happening specifically to him. He’d kept waiting for some special dispensation. But no. Something/someone bigger than him kept refusing. You were told the big something/someone loved you especially but in the end you saw it was otherwise. The big something/someone was neutral. Unconcerned. When it innocently moved, it crushed people.
A passage such as this does not hide the underlying pathos through irony or “wacky” humor or agile writing. The emotion it is clearly soliciting from the reader even verges on being sentimental. (I would actually maintain it actually crosses that line.) The story’s placement at the conclusion of this book would seem to indicate that Saunders regards it as bringing together common concerns or manifesting certain important assumptions. For me, the story works to clarify that, despite the fact many of his stories court the bizarre and chronicle extreme states of being, finally Saunders’s fiction fits comfortably enough within the established protocols of the American short story as recognized and accepted by most readers. That this is true does help explain the enthusiasm for Saunders’s work — the surface content of his stories is pleasingly weird, but they are also told in familiar ways and engage the reader’s emotions rather straightforwardly. But then the story moved to Don Eber, a man in his fifties who is suffering from a brain tumor, and all of a sudden the story turned into terrific read! George Saunders’ portrayal of Eber is brilliant. Eber is at a stage where the tumor is affecting his word choices, so he is considering killing himself before his faculties fail him and he becomes a burden to his family. He remembers the time when his stepdad Allen became sick. Towards the end, Allen who was the kindest man ever became ‘that’ person who would yell ‘kants’ in a weird New England accent at people who tried to help him.
Soon Allen had become that. And no one was going to fault anybody for avoiding that. Sometimes he and Mom would huddle in the kitchen. Rather than risk incurring the wrath of that. Even that understood the deal. You’d trot in a glass of water, set it down, say, very politely, Anything else, Allen? And you’d see that thinking, All these years I was so good to you people and now I am merely that? Sometimes the gentle Allen would be inside there, too, indicating, with his eyes, Look, go away, please go away, I am trying so hard not to call you kant! Eber’s wife, Molly had told him, “You are not Allen and Allen is not you,” but the possibility that his illness could do that to him terrifies Eber. So he decides to go out on a cold winter day and freeze himself to death.
Eber leaves his coat near a mostly frozen pond, and while he is waiting for his end to come, Robin who is on his way to save Suzanne comes upon the coat. Robin realizes no one can survive this weather without a coat, not even a grownup, so he decides to take the coat and find the person who had left it behind. Robin knows the clock is ticking, and to reach the other side quicker he decides to cut across the pond over the seemingly frozen ice, without seeing the warning signs. So Robin falls into the ice cold water, and Eber who sees it runs to help Robin. What follows is a magnificent ending.
Tenth of December is my favorite story in the collection. I was moved by it.
1. Questions for discussion
3. NPR book review
4. Guardian book review (also with the video) https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2015/dec/28/tenth-of-december-by-george-saunders-a-book-to-make-you-love-people-again
5. Book review in Media.com
Thanks to the efforts of the government and the hard work of our medical staff, Taiwan has done a good job in the prevention of COVID-19, we execute outstandingly among all countries. Luckily, we, the people of Taiwan, have safely survived the tense moment. We deeply hope our members and your family all are well at this timing.
The writing style of our May book is a different one, our May leader, Sylvia works hard to help us find some solutions in terms of a better understanding of the book.
Please read our Summary and Questions by Sylvia
May. 4, 2020 activity:
Book: Tenth Of Dec.
Author: George Saunders
Leader: Sylvia Li & Clive Hazell
Time: 1 p.m. May. 4, 2020
Place: online meeting
Join in Zoom meeting via the Internet
ID：921 535 7850
Phone meeting: +1 669 900 6833 (California, U.S.)
ID：921 535 7850
Or the directory is in https://zoom.us/u/1vXyn...
Highlights vs self- reflection:
1.p.9:Can goodness win: or do good people always get shafted, evil being more reckless.(Victory of Lap)
2.p.249:many drops of goodness, is how it came to him-many drops of happy of good fellowship ahead, and those drops of fellowship were not had never been his to withheld.(Tenth of Dec)
3.p.251: He’d embarrassed her by doing something that showed she hadn’t sufficiently noticed him needing her. (Tenth of Dec)
4.p.79:At birth, they’d been charged by God with the responsibility of growing into total fuckups.(Escape from Spiderhead)
5.p.79:Life-poisoning flowers. (Escape from Spiderhead)
6.p.161:sin-eaters(The Semplica Girl Diaries)
7. p.163:wife was just wisp of thing even at best.(The Semplica Girl Diaries)
8.p.172; He’s the king of If(home)
9.p.201: you are the sorriest bunch of bastards the world has ever known. (home)
1.p.9:Each of us is a rainbow(Victory of Lap)
2.p.27:A bad thing happened to you kids, Dad said. But it could have been worse(Victory of Lap)
3.p.217:You are indeed a worthy adversary. (Tenth of December)
4.p.217:They would make him lie on is back looking up at the racing clouds wile they tortured him in ways he could actually take. (Tenth of December)
5.p.230:A blissful feeling overtook me as I drifted off to sleep at the base of the crevasse.(Tenth of December)
6.p.85:So the point of this memo is: positive. The positive mental state will help you clean that shelf well(Exhortation)
7.p.85: if we can to minimize the grumbling and self-doubt regarding the tasks we must sometimes do around here that maybe aren’t on the surface all that pleasant.
1.Saunders is geophysical engineering major, he uses stone as medium to express our inner soul. Geode shows us if kids lost the best communication with parents, the inner luster can’t shine.
2.From helping other, we see the wonder of love, hope and faith even from the eye of the sick.
3. Live to the fullest, don’t look small to yourself. Even the small fry can save the need.
4. An incredibly well-written, inventive, funny, engaging set of short stories that deserves all its acclaim and Saunders takes on all kinds of issues in these stories, and while a lot of them are about class issues, the American obsession with medication, the absurdity of business speak, helicopter parents, and much more. But he does all of these while always telling engaging, satisfying stories first and foremost, and giving them all not only lots of thematic depth, but also satisfying plot beats as well.
※"Victory Lap," which finds a pair of over-parented children dealing with an intrusion of the real world into their overly-regulated lives. Theres the spectacular “Home alone movie again, stupid criminal
※"Exhortation," where a business manager tries to find the most positive spin for a job that only gradually reveals itself as something less than desirable.”“Good for nothing boss, bossy around”
※"The Semplica Girl Diaries" gives us a window into a middle class life thats constantly striving to do whatever it takes to match up with everyone else.
※"My Chivalric Fiasco" finds a Renaissance Fair knight embracing his role at exactly the wrong time. And that doesnt even touch on the painful, darkly comic but ultimately horrifying
※"Escape from Spiderhead," where you get a window into the next generation of medications that will shape our moods, or the heartfelt title story, as a terminally ill mans attempt to end his life is thwarted in an unexpected way.
※Tenth of December is sharply satirical, engagingly funny, richly plotted, and as if thats not enough, the writing is wonderfully and constantly surprising, finding new voices constantly and evolving to fit whatever the story needs it to be. In short, Tenth of December deserves all of its acclaim and then some, and it makes me not only a convert but an enthusiastic one whos going to be reading more Saunders as soon as I possibly can.(r.29)
The story constantly shifts from the real to the ideal, to the imagined, to the remembered.
For example, the boy in Saunders story, Robin, walks through the woods imagining himself a hero. He trudges through the woods tracking imaginary creatures called Nethers, who have kidnapped his alluring classmate, Suzanne Bledsoe.
Reality merges seamlessly with Robins pretend world as he glances at a thermometer reading 10 degrees ("That made it real"), as well as when he begins to follow actual human footprints while still pretending that hes tracking a Nether. When he finds a winter coat and decides to follow the footsteps so he can return it to its owner, he recognizes that "[i]t was a rescue. A real rescue, at last, sort of."
Don Eber, the terminally ill 53-year-old man in the story, holds conversations in his head. He is pursuing his own imagined heroics—in this case, going into the wilderness to freeze to death in order to spare his wife and children the suffering of caring for him as his illness progresses.
His own conflicted feelings about his plan come out in the form of imagined exchanges with adult figures from his childhood and, finally, in the grateful dialogue he fabricates between his surviving children when they realize how selfless hes been.
He considers all the dreams hell never achieve (such as delivering his "major national speech on compassion"), which seems not so different from fighting Nethers and saving Suzanne—these fantasies seem unlikely to happen even if Eber lives another 100 years.
The effect of the movement between real and imagined is dreamlike and surreal—an effect that is only heightened in the frozen landscape, especially when Eber enters the hallucinations of hypothermia.
Even from the beginning, Robins fantasies cant make a clean break from reality. He imagines the Nethers will torture him but only "in ways he could actually take." He imagines that Suzanne will invite him to her pool, telling him, "Its cool if you swim with your shirt on."
By the time he has survived a near-drowning and near-freezing, Robin is solidly grounded in reality. He starts to imagine what Suzanne might say, then stops himself, thinking, "Ugh. That was done, that was stupid, talking in your head to some girl who in real life called you Roger."
Eber, too, is pursuing an unrealistic fantasy that he will eventually have to give up. Terminal illness transformed his own kind stepfather into a brutal creature he thinks of only as "THAT." Eber—already tangled in his own deteriorating ability to find accurate words—is determined to avoid a similar fate. He thinks that he "would have preempted all future debasement" and that his "fears about the coming months would be mute. Moot."
But "this incredible opportunity to end things with dignity" is interrupted when he sees Robin moving dangerously across the ice carrying his—Ebers—coat.
Eber greets this revelation with a perfectly prosaic, "Oh, for sh*tsake." His fantasy of an ideal, poetic passing wont come to be, a fact readers may have guessed when he landed on "mute" rather than "moot."
The rescues in this story are beautifully intertwined. Eber rescues Robin from the cold (if not from the actual pond), but Robin would never have fallen into the pond in the first place if he hadnt tried to rescue Eber by taking his coat to him. Robin, in turn, saves Eber from the cold by sending his mother to go get him. But Robin has also already saved Eber from suicide by falling into the pond.
The immediate need to save Robin forces Eber into the present, and being in the present seems to help integrate Ebers various selves—past and present. Saunders writes:
"Suddenly he was not purely the dying guy who woke nights in the med-bed thinking, Make this not true make this not true, but again, partly, the guy who used to put bananas in the freezer, then crack them on the counter and pour chocolate over the broken chunks, the guy who’d once stood outside a classroom window in a rainstorm to see how Jodi was faring."
Eventually, Eber begins to see the illness (and its inevitable indignities) not as negating his previous self but simply as being one part of who he is. Likewise, he rejects the impulse to hide his suicide attempt from his children because it, too, is part of who he is.
As he synthesizes the pieces of himself, he is also able to integrate his gentle, loving stepfather with the vitriolic brute he became in the end. Remembering the generous way his desperately ill stepfather listened attentively to Ebers presentation on manatees, Eber sees that there are "drops of goodness" to be had even in the worst situations.
Though he and his wife are in unfamiliar territory, "stumbling a bit on a swell in the floor of this stranger’s house," they are together. (R.15)
6.Windfall may fall into winfall of greed. Eva and Lilly wanna hold her father back from squander the money to celebrate Lilly’s b-day. Love is nothing to do with money, but something to do with sharing.(The Semplica Girl Diaries)
Tenth of Dec Questions :
Most of those who turn a blind eye to what they are seeing do so because they dont want to disrupt the status quo of their own lives. They withdraw in some way from social contact with the person whose amorality they have witnessed, but they dont take the next step of actually confronting them, or reporting them to authorities. The only exception to this rule is Lillys little sister, who releases the captive Semplica girls and she is the one who gets into trouble.
Kyle knows that he should tell what he knows about Allisons kidnappers; the trouble is, if he admits to seeing them, then he will also have to admit to breaking the many rules that his parents structure his life with. He doesnt want to get into trouble; besides, Allison hasnt been that nice to him lately so he can just about justify turning a blind eye.
Callie loves her husband and doesnt want to make him angry. After all, he is clearly capable of heinous acts of violence because he kills the unsold pets himself. Callie doesnt want that fate to befall her if she angers him and so she turns a blind eye to the fact that he kills puppies with his bare hands. Maria, her neighbor, has no idea that her neighbor kills unsold animals, she is merely trying to rescue a puppy, but when she sees that Callie has chained her son to a tree, she doesnt want to get involved. She becomes quite frightened of her neighbor, pulls out of the agreement to purchase the puppy, and doesnt speak to Callie again. She turns the blind eye in order to avoid protracted involvement in someone elses train wreck, and doesnt want her status quo disrupted.
Ted turns a blind eye because he is in a position of having no power at all. Hes the janitor, and the man whom he sees raping his co-worker is the manager of the theme park where he works. Even if he says something about what he has witnessed its unlikely anyone will believe him. He takes the promotion offered and intends to keep his mouth shut, turning a blind eye out of necessity and because of his position in the company.
Quite a few of Saunders characters end up committing their own lives in the short stories he writes, but only one actually starts the story with the intention of doing so. The un-named man in "Tenth of December" sets out with the intention of ending his life to avoid the pain of the disease that he is suffering from. In his case, suicide is not seen as the result of mental illness or emotional distress but as a reaction to a specific circumstance. He is not depressed; he is euthanizing himself humanely.
Similarly, Jeff commits suicide to avoid causing pain, both to himself, and to other people. He doesnt want to choose which woman should receive a drug that causes emotional and physical pain and so rather than having to make this decision, he kills himself. Again, he is not depressed, but is killing himself to avoid a specific situation.
Heather has also committed suicide whilst under the influence of the drug that Jeff wants to avoid choosing her to be given again, not because of depression but because of a specific event (being essentially changed by a drug). This set of traits characterizes the suicides in the collection of stories.
The last story, Tenth of December is set in Canada, and 10 degree centigrade and cold weather is essential to the plot of the story, and I would say that Saunders chose a date in the month of December.
Clearly - class disparity, great humanity in "average" people, and the stories themselves all appear to be set in a recent US future where the worst of what we have today has gotten worse. For example illegal immigration issues - the ubiquitous Mexican gardener in California has evolved into a lawn ornament.
5.How did having these stories bound together enhance or detract from your reading pleasure?
7.Which of the stories most struck a chord, positive or negative, with you?
8.After reading through the New Yorker interview with Saunders, did you see other similarities? The stronger colors of his book would draw our attention. Saunders is kind of poorly, and lumpily, read because of his engineering background but he can intuit things pretty well. The thing he get really excited about is dramatization. You know, He is not a violent person,it makes him uncomfortable, his dad was on a business trip and he took them to see Dirty Harry. He kind of hadnt realized how violent it was, but he remember in seventh grade watching that movie, and kind of being terrified, but also really exhilarated by that violence has power. Thats been one of the things Ive had to accept about myself is that, as much as I wanna be that other, gentler, wise, loving writer, instead of a hateful monster whos got an opposing political sticker on their bumper, life is just a series of enacting that wonderful cycle with three-dimensional via the love of re-imagining them. If somebody cuts you off in traffic and first you just hate em. And then, with a little distance, or maybe with a little discipline, you can say, well, wait a minute, Ive done that, Ive cut people off.
In that moment I wasnt a monster, I just was inattentive. So then, suddenly, instead of a hateful monster whos got an opposing political sticker on their bumper, they become you, that time you were inattentive. And then suddenly a lot of that goes out. I think its a cycle.
9.What you learn from this book?
1.George Saunders: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Saunders
2.Tenth of Dec plot: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenth_of_December:_Stories
3.Book Review of Victory Lap: https://medium.com/@dsfish/book-review-tenth-of-december-by-george-saunders-1a8df133e1df
4.Ballet pas de chat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAsMB3eRe6g
5.Ballet Changement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RURPo2vJkCc
9.George Saunders Interview: https://www.newyorker.com/video/watch/office-hours-with-george-saunders
13.Grounhog Day: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groundhog_Day_(film)
14. Groundhog Day:https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%9C%9F%E6%8B%A8%E9%BC%A0%E6%97%A5
16.Threw them loops: https://blake0714.pixnet.net/blog/post/31846150
17.pellet gun:P https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pellet_(air_gun)
Tenth of Dec Review for May. 4, 2020
p.85:”So the point of this memo is: positive. The positive mental state will help you clean that shelf well.” With the leader Slyvia’s and coleader Clive’s positive attitude help us go through this tortured reading experience successfully. Here is our conclusions:
1. Florence: Too difficult for me to read. All ears to your sharing.
2.Faye: It’s a difficult book to read, with Slyvia and Clives’ summaries help us a lot to understand the deeper meaning about the life, family, relationship and self achievement.
3.Emma: Saunders is geophysical engineering major, he uses stone as medium to express our inner soul. Geode shows us if kids lost the best communication with parents, the inner luster can’t shine. From helping other, we see the wonder of love, hope and faith even from the eye of the sick. Live to the fullest, don’t look small to yourself. Even the small fry can save the need.
4.Torey: I hate this story, I grow up with half strict disciplines and hide in my half chaos to deal with disciplines. This book is really provocative for me to think about outliers and normal.
5.Carol: It’s a modern fable with unclear conclusions. If we don’t clean yourselves, someone else will clean for you and cost more.
6.Clive: I don’t like this book, Saunders tries to create a new voice via tiring and difficult narrative style. It’s the second book of Saunders, but I have no interest at all. Comparing to the first one, this one is more interesting.
7. Mingli: Tenth of Dec is more concrete to read, the others lose the trace for us to follow.
8. Slyvia: It’s a good experience for me. I have prepared it for more than 2 months. And It’s a tremendous torture for a thinker like me to deal with this kind of surrealistic writing style and overcome my reading habit to deal with all the injustice existence. Thank you for all your participants
9.Amber: Glad to see your heated discussion but I only read the first story, I remembered that there is an effect theory quite consistent ＂Amygdala Abduction"
This is a mechanism to protect the human body, because things that provoke emotions usually mean that through the amygdala, the bodys adrenaline can be quickly secreted to help us get out of the crisis or have more energy to fight the crisis.
I think that it didnt matter to parents education or social vision when it happened, but it was out of instinct.
In the process of reading the story, I enjoyed the ups and downs, but after reading, I classified my experience into my own ideas. Reading English books was what I wanted to do but I haven’t done it, because the degree isn’t good enough, but I think only continuous learning will make progress, the first step is taken.
June. 1, 2020 activity:
Time: 1 p.m. June. 1, 2020
Place: Qubit Cafe (Hanshin Arena) No.6, Lane 50, Bo-Ai 3 Road,
Zuo Ying District, Kaohsiung. Tel:07-3459477
Parking: in the basement of the Qubit Café
Sylvia, thank you again for leading on this book - and also thank you to Clive for co-leading! This was not an easy book for anybody and you were both so thoughtful and thorough, especially while we are all calling in over Zoom. Hats off to you!
Great thanks to Clive helps us to write the easy contents, it help us a lot. See you on line today.
Thank you so much Sylvia for your work and dedication to theis collection of stories. I think you have raised the bar high
Saunders is not for me. He is a writer whose style I dont love or understand. I can search for a sentence or two that is remarkable but I just cannot go with his flow. The fault lies in my own taste, I concede. I would be perfectly happily to reread historical non-fiction forever. I was really impressed by how much effort Sylvia put into this months presentation and the notes and questions. I also really admire all you ladies for pushing through these stories. Brava!
Emma:so great , we can say it together:Veni, vidi, vici! yeah! thank you , our great leader and coleader and all our sweet members keep going! if not jot down so right as what you guys deepest reflection, feel free to modify here,too.
Slyvia:I probably didnt enjoy reading, but I really enjoy the discussion with Clive and ladies. I hope that I can re-visit Saunders once I have more insights in my life.Thanks to Emma for the clear summary and the details. I really enjoy the book summary.Florence, you are so efficient. I havent got time to write the review yet. Thanks so much.You are very welcome, Torey. And thanks for you to have opened the discussion.Thanks for your cooperation.Clive Actually I couldnt complete without your kindly help.I do have those general questions to ask. It is deep down in my soul, I think. I concerned about the issues of indifference and insensitivity, since Ive worked in the remote areas with the aboriginal tribes since 2004. Ive been concerned about violence against women and children also for more than 15 years. Another is about my reflections on being judgemental, being self-righteous in my inner dialogues. It seems that a crowd has been living in me.
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