You may also know George Saunders for his graduation speech on kindness that went viral in 2013. Saunders' meditations on this key value struck a nerve! His concern with the theme of kindness as well as his insistence that we "pay attention" (unkindness is what happens when we don't) make his work essential for our exploration of what promotes and inhibits democracy.
The stories in Tenth of December engage with the pressing questions of our time and with the pressing questions of any time. They explore class consciousness in a consumer society, the seductive dangers of technology, the exploitations of capitalism, and the ethics of modern war. Equally, they explore timeless issues like strict parents, ungrateful children, soul-numbing jobs, insecurity, disease, and poverty.
Saunders' work, including Tenth of December, is often referred to as "experimental": the weird, quirky, and dark aspects of his stories make them eccentric to the conventions of realism, yet neither are the stories as a whole complete departures from realism. Saunders insists that his experiments in fiction be essential, that they somehow get the reader closer to some truth: "My idea is that life is so strange and so unknowable and so beautiful that you might have to resort to extraordinary means in order to get some of that on the page."
Saunders has published four short story collections and a novel and regularly publishes in The New Yorker and GQ. He teaches in the MFA program at Syracuse and lives in the Catskill mountains.
We look forward to sharing this book with you! In each of four emails, which you can schedule to receive at a pace that suits your needs, you will receive:
- A summary of a portion of the book.
- Commentary by Julia Davis.
- Questions for reflection and practice.
- An invitation to journal about what you're learning.
Your guide for this exploration is Julia (Julie) Davis, who was a 2018 - 2019 fellow with The Practicing Democracy Project. Julia holds an M.A. and C.Phil. in English and American Literatures and Cultures from Brown University and a B.A. in English from the University of California at Santa Barbara. When she created this program, she was pursuing her Master of Divinity at Claremont School of Theology with a focus on Interfaith Chaplaincy. Her interest in chaplaincy grew out of her 17 years experience teaching American literature at the college and high school level. Julia is passionate about the intersection of spiritual practices and social change.
Tenth of December is one of twelve books included in the We the People Book Club, an opportunity to strengthen your vision of democracy by contemplating America's past and possibilities as presented by classic and contemporary literary voices. You may also be interested in the e-courses mentioned in the sidebar under "Also Recommended."
(4 CEHs for chaplains available.)
(choose your own start date and frequency)