By Nick Elliot
‘Tenth of December’ by George Saunders
Last week, author Ben Marcus offered advice to aspiring writers. He read for the College’s Masters Series, sponsored by ink, and spoke about the importance in understanding the writer’s personal identity as a reader: What captivates you and makes you turn the page? What bores you and causes you to toss a book aside?
I decided that I wanted to write about a short story — a format I tend to overlook — for this month’s column. The short story is often more approachable than the novel and is the perfect medium to explore the stories, techniques and voices that speak to readers. Some of today’s finest writers are writing short stories. One such writer is George Saunders, whose “Tenth of December” was published in the “New Yorker” this past fall.
“Tenth of December” follows an unlikely pair — Robin, a young boy with an overactive imagination, and Don Eber, a 53-year-old man suffering from a brain tumor. In 10 degree weather, Robin journeys outside to a pond behind his house on a fictitious mission to save his school crush. Don, whose mental and physical health is severely declining, chooses the scenic overlook as the place to end his life on his own terms. When Robin falls into the ice-covered pond, Don is moved into action to save Robin’s life — and his own.
As I began Saunders’s story, I initially felt as though this was not “my type” of read. True, the opening is disorienting, and it took me a little while to get my bearings. But I’m so glad I stuck it out. Saunders masterfully alternates between his characters’ perspectives and carefully intertwines their stories.
Fighting against their desires to quit and give up in the midst of immediate danger, both Robin and Don come to realizations about their own fears.
So as I continue to discover what it is that keeps me interested in a piece of writing, I encourage you to take Marcus’ advice and do the same. Push yourself to try a novel, short story or poem outside your comfort zone.
By Chris Delaney
‘The Lovers’ by John Connolly
“The Lovers” by John Connolly is the eighth installment in the Charlie Parker series. The title character Charlie Parker is a former New York City policeman turned private investigator.
“The Lovers” starts off with Parker down on his luck. He has lost his P.I. license and is busy supporting himself by working in a bar when he becomes entangled in another case.
Connolly continues to thrill readers with his intricate web of plots and his ability to get the reader into the mind of his characters. In “The Lovers,” he continues his unique style of combining both a detective story with fantastical elements.
Parker must uncover the mystery of two demons, appropriately known as “The Lovers” in the case. These demons, a young man and woman, keep appearing at murder scenes over the years, such as that of Parker’s father’s death decades earlier. Parker must face his haunted childhood in order to uncover the truth and solve the case.
I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys a great mystery novel. As a result of the fantastical elements Connolly manages to both surprise and terrify you throughout. It is definitely worth a read.