Year of a Hundred books – #76 Tenth of December

Tenth of DecemberTenth of DecemberGeorge Saunders


More short stories! This one, which collects a number of works published in the New Yorker, Harper’s and McSweeney’s, however is much darker than any of the others I’ve read this year. Most of them are set in the near future, in what I would probably cast as being slightly dystopian, though that may just be because of my own sensibilities. At the heart of almost all of the stories is idea of moral relativism, or at least the disparity that occurs between the morals of two people. Unfortunately, this makes for rather unsettling reading.

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Year of a Hundred books – #3 – OMG Queer

OMG QueerOMG Queer – Various

It’s difficult to review anthologies of various author’s works, because there’s often such a variety in terms of quality and execution between the pieces. The plus side, as a reader, is that if there’s a story you don’t like, you can just move on to the next one. There weren’t many pieces in this collection that I felt it necessary to skip, but it did become a bit of a chore reading some of them as time went on.

I think, perhaps, my issue is that I was expecting something the book never actually offered. As the blurbs says,  “these stories, imagined and told by youth across America, provide a snapshot of queerness at the dawn of the new millennium.” The key word in this is “youth”, and unfortunately most of the stories are either coming out narratives or discussions of the difficulties of being LGBTQ as a teenager. Which is fine, there’s nothing wrong with this in theory, but this meant that their stories had to work quite hard to distinguish themselves from each other, which very few manage. Then again, some do, and it’s generally the ones that are more than just Gay/Lesbian themes. Brenna Harvey’s Jelson, for example, is easily the best story in the collection, with a slightly fantastical take on transgender identity and relationships. Chili Powder by Anna Meadows is more about cultural differences and immigration, and only uses homosexuality as the specific example of culture clash. That said, there’s also the highly disappointing There was a knocking on the door by Andrew Arslan, in which the narrator comes out to his Islamic father. It’s bad on every level, from its straw-man “he’s only liberal when it’s easy” father, to the frankly appalling dialogue and the unsympathetic narrator, and is easily the worst story in the book.

I think the collection would work better for me if I were an adolescent in need of narratives to relate to, and there’s nothing really particularly wrong with (most of) the pieces collected here, but as it stands, the minimal amounts of really original story-telling really hurts the book when being marketed to a wider audience