by May 10, 2013 at 2:00 pm 0

From Zak M. Salih Email him at zak[AT]

"Tenth of December"

Tenth of December by George Sounders. (Courtesy Ramdom House)

To be honest, the stories in George Saunders’ Tenth of December are probably a lot more sci-fi than they let on at first glance. Several of them seem to take place in near-distant futures where technology runs rampant, sapping our humanity, our free will and our ability to express genuine emotions.

In “Escape from Spiderhead,” a penal colony is home to bizarre scientific experiments in which, with the flip of a dial, a prisoner can spout poetry, feel intense sexual desire and even want to inflict harm on others.

In one of Saunders’ other haunting pieces, “The Semplica Girl Diaries,” we follow along in the diary of a middle-aged family man who engages in psychological class warfare with his more well-off neighbors.

But what’s more terrifying than the economic disparity the narrator feels: the world he lives in, one in which immigrants from third-world countries elect to become veritable lawn ornaments in an effort to earn and send money back to their families (an idea that’s echoed in another story, “Puppy,” where a child is literally chained outside to a tree).

Sounds farfetched? It is, but the strangeness is tempered by the normalcy with which these otherworldly situations are treated; just another facet of consumerist American society. In fact, it’s the class element to this collection (whose narrators who are all underdogs of a sort) that comes to mean more than the sci-fi aspects of Tenth of December.

And when both themes come together, as they do in “My Chivalric Fiasco” (where an actor at a Renaissance fair takes a drug that makes him think and act like the heroic knight he only pretends to be), the result is proof of how Saunders can make the fanciful believable and the outlandish all too human.

Come to Tenth of December for the flights of fancy and strange twists of fate. Stay for the frightening commentary on how we live and feel in an increasingly technological, fractured world.

Get an RSS Feed for all Borderstan stories or subscribe to Borderstan’s daily email newsletter.

by January 15, 2013 at 12:00 pm 0

From Zak M. Salih Email him at zak[AT]

Chances are if you’re a reader, the holidays have made you the proud owner of a bookstore gift card or excess gift cash just waiting to be spent on books. And you could just go out now and buy whatever’s currently on the shelves. Or you could take a look at some of the promising books slated for publication in the coming months.

There’s a lot, for sure. But these particular selections promise to be edgy, engaging, offbeat, insightful…you get the point. One unique and relatively short read for each month. That should be enough to make a few more months of cold seem like not such a bad idea at all.

Saudners_coverTenth of December

by George Saunders (out now):

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who love David Foster Wallace and those who don’t. Readers who belong to the former camp have probably heard of George Saunders, whose stories read like a calmer version of Wallace’s. This latest collection from Saunders features stories on everything from bizarre pharmacological experiments and child abduction to post-war trauma and the final moments of a cancer patient. Uplifting stuff, no doubt. But with Saunders at the wheel, they’re sure to make for fascinating journeys.

Russell_coverVampires in the Lemon Grove

by Karen Russell (February 12):

Fresh off her debut novel, Swamplandia! (one of three finalists for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize that failed to crown a winner), Karen Russell returns with her second collection of humid southern gothic tales that combine great storytelling with imaginative new takes on night-bumping things. Human silkworms, savaged scarecrows, magical tattoos, lovey-dovey bloodsuckers in the titular story’s lemon grove; Halloween’s coming pretty early this year.

Carson_coverRed Doc <

by Anne Carson (March 5):

If you haven’t read Autobiography of Red, the poet Anne Carson’s intriguing mythological reimagining of the classical Greek monster, Geryon (who in Carson’s modernization falls in tempestuous love with that other Greek hero, Hercules), then do it. It’s a fascinating work of poetry and a necessary read for this sequel work — an experimental piece that continues Geryon’s adventures.

Get an RSS Feed for all Borderstan stories or subscribe to Borderstan’s daily email newsletter.



Subscribe to our mailing list