I recently treated myself to a subscription to the New York Review of Books.
I haven’t had one for years. It’s an expensive subscription, a bit pricey if you neglect to appreciate the pages of excellent writing therein, but more so because of the time required to read it as deeply as the articles demand.
Consequently I am always behind in reading them, and gradually the pressure builds (as with my to-be-read-bookshelf-of-books, which has now expanded to double layers in some places), and I settle myself down and throw myself in.
I honestly believe the NYRB is one of the last bastions of proper journalism. Articles that presumably are there to review books bring in such knowledge and analysis, and I learn so much I can feel my brain stretching.
Every once and awhile I find an article that makes me cry out with delight. I’ve always been a fan of George Saunders’ writing, but this review of his latest collection of stories, Tenth of December, written by Wyatt Mason, was so beautifully done that I am fighting the urge to run out and buy the book to front load onto my aforesaid bookshelf.
I was captured from the first quotation Mason uses from the book, “The pale boy with unfortunate Prince Valiant bangs,” immediately envisioning my son back when I was learning to give the kids haircuts and the horrible way I sent him out into the world (Sorry, J). Mason goes on to excerpt more of the story, a heartbreaking one, ultimately redemptive.
Mason contrasts Saunders with Franzen and David Foster Wallace, and makes the conclusions that made me cry out in delight. You have to read the article. I’ll include the last sentences as a temptation…the problem is that, standing alone, the might behind the comment is missing, the discussion of Saunders’ Buddhism, his perspective on writing fiction, and much more. Go read it. Better still, subscribe to the NYRB. You won’t regret it.
“But if fiction is to continue to exert an influence over a culture that finds it ever easier to connect, however frailly, to the world around them through technology, Saunders’s stories suggest that the ambition to connect outwardly isn’t the only path we can choose. Rather, his fiction shows us that the path to reconciliation with our condition is inward, a journey we must make alone.”
Oh heck, I’m just going to have to buy Tenth of December!