We're a scant four hours away from the new George Saunders book hitting the shelves, which means it's time for me to put on a costume*, go to a midnight release party at my nearest bookstore, and commune with the rest of the teeming masses who are crowding the aisles while eagerly waiting to be allowed to hold our pre-purchased copies of Tenth of December. Okay, George Saunders isn't a hot enough pop-cultural property to warrant midnight release parties, but he should be, if only because those parties would be well worth remembering.
Saunders is a short story writer who came out of the gate already charging at full tilt with 1996's CivilWarLand In Bad Decline, a debut collection with a voice that seemed impossibly disciplined and a satirical point-of-view that was both deeply empathetic and painfully cutting all at once. He followed it up with 2000's Pastoralia and 2006's In Persuasion Nation, cementing his reputation for short stories that skewered the grotesqueries at the heart of western culture and politics.
But everything I just wrote makes his writing sound inaccessibly intellectual. It's not. It's immediate. It's visceral. It's fantastical and fatalistic and serene and—most of all—it's hilarious.
I will always love my high school English teacher Mrs. Gosbee for her reply to a starry-eyed classmate who interrupted a lesson on choosing precise adjectival phrases to ask, "How do you say something is indescribable?"
"You don't," Mrs. Gosbee spat back. "If you're writing about something, the words exist to describe it."
I believe that that is true—I'm just not good enough to describe writing as fun and exciting as George Saunders'. Trust me: He's good. Pick up his new book tomorrow. You won't regret it.