George Saunders Short Stories

George Saunders is one of the most popular modern short story writers. He is known for satirical stories with elements of sci-fi or fantasy. He often writes about discontented and alienated people. The stories on this page are divided by the following collections:

  • Tenth of December
  • In Persuasion Nation
  • Pastoralia

George Saunders Short Stories

Tenth of December (2013)

“Victory Lap”

Alison Pope, a teenager, daydreams about turning down potential suitors. She looks down on the boy next door, Kyle, whom she used to hang out with as a kid. There is a knock at Alison’s back door. Meanwhile, Kyle, who lives in a regimented household, comes home and finds the chore that’s been left for him. Eventually, he notices a van pull up outside.

This story can be read in the preview of Tenth of December: Stories(13% in)

“Sticks”

A father has a pole in his yard that he dresses according to the occasion.

This one is very short. (Summary & Analysis)

This story can also be read in the above preview of Tenth of December: Stories. (90% in)

“Escape from Spiderhead”

Jeff is an inmate at Spiderhead, a research facility. Along with others, he tests drugs that affect his speech, perception, and feelings for people. He’s there because of a fateful day from his past.

“Puppy”

Marie is a mother who likes bringing home various animals. Her husband, Robert, just accepts the new guests. Her son, Josh, has a behavioral problem but he is distracted with a new video game. Callie is also a mother with a son, Bo, who is uncontrollable. She is selling a puppy so her husband, Jimmy, won’t have to kill it.

“The Semplica-Girl Diaries”

A forty-year-old father of three girls starts a diary to inform future readers how life is in the present. He chronicles the events leading up to the thirteenth birthday party of his oldest daughter, Lilly. The family is middle-class, but they live beyond their means. The father wants to buy his daughter an expensive present, and also wants a status symbol to show off to the neighbors.

“Home”

A man, Mikey, returns home. The place is untidy, his Ma is watching her language because she works at a church now, and she’s living with a new man, Harris, who is unemployed. Mikey had done something while away that got him in trouble. He visits his dysfunctional family.

“Tenth of December”

A young boy, Robin, gets his pellet gun and goes on a rescue mission. He suspects the Nethers, a species he’s had previous run-ins with, of kidnapping a classmate of his, Suzanne. Robin comes across a coat, still warm inside, on a bench. He sees a thin, older man in the distance, walking off in the cold. Robin knows something is wrong. He changes his mission.

In Persuasion Nation (2006)

“I CAN SPEAK!™”

Mrs. Faniglia receives a letter from KidLuv, makers of the I CAN SPEAK™ device for babies. She returned the one she purchased, so an associate addresses her concerns. The device doesn’t read the babies mind. It recognizes aural patterns and then makes it seem like the baby is speaking. The mask doesn’t look like your baby, but the upgraded version does, which they are pleased to offer her at no extra charge.

This story can be read in the preview of In Persuasion Nation(30% in)

“My Flamboyant Grandson”

A boy loves show-tunes, singing and dancing, which alienates him from his peers and many adults. His grandfather accepts him and brings him to New York to see a show. He obtains a Promissory Voucher and they head to the Eisner Theater. Upon arriving he finds this isn’t enough. He also needs Proof of Purchases from at least six of their sponsors and the real tickets from the Redemption Center.

This story can also be read in the above preview of In Persuasion Nation. (55% in)

“Jon”

Jon lives in a research facility with other young people. They test the marketability of products. Jon has a relationship with Carolyn that makes them think about their futures with the company.

“The Red Bow”

A young girl is killed by dogs. Some men in the village look for the dogs and shoot them. They turn their attention to other dogs that might also be dangerous. Their enthusiasm for making the village safe gets out of hand.

Pastoralia (2000)

“Pastoralia”

The narrator isn’t feeling his best. He’s in his work area, sitting on his haunches, waiting in case someone looks in. No one has looked in for almost two weeks. His coworker, Janet, has been talking English more and more, which is against policy. There’s a fresh goat provided for them in the Big Slot each morning along with matches. Others have it harder. He skins it with a flint and Janet makes a fire to cook it. Back when they got more visitors they would throw themselves into their roles more, grunting and tossing dirt. One morning, there’s no goat in the Big Slot.

Some of this longer story can be read in the preview of Pastoralia. (20% in)

“Winky”

Neil Yanicky attends a self-help conference at the Hyatt. The audience wears paper hats colored to reflect how much help they need. The Gold Hats who have mastered life are gathered together. A scene that illustrates the forces holding people back is acted out on stage. Tom Rodgers, the founder of the Seminars, tells his story of personal growth and success, which involved getting rid of someone who was holding him back. Neil feels the same way about someone.

“Sea Oak”

The narrator is a waiter/stripper at a restaurant for women. He lives in a subsidized apartment with his sister, Min; his cousin, Jade; and his aunt, Bernie. Min and Jade also have babies. They don’t have much and they live in a bad area. The narrator gets a panicked call from Min while he’s at work.

Read “Sea Oak”