Tenth of December Tenth of December discussion


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Exhortation?

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Nancy So, I'm the first to admit that I'm not a fan of the short story so I probably have to business reading this collection but could someone please explain to me what Exhortation is all about? What is the "work" they are doing? What happens in Room 6? Does it even matter? If not, it just seems like a ridiculous pep talk to me. This story follows the creepy one about injecting drugs in to people and experimenting with their moods etc. I'm not really understanding this collection at all and a little shocked at all the praise it has received, especially the nod from the National Book Award. I am determined to get through it but any light that could be shed would be most helpful.


christopher what happens in room 6 is deliberately ambiguous. at first i thought it was a sex dungeon because the memo writer talks a lot about "cleaning shelves" (anyone in the business would know what that means) but on my second read i realized that he meant it to be an ambiguous thing and the shelf cleaning thing was just a coincidence.

i think saunders spends a lot of time in this story wondering about/talking about morality. there's a lot of levels of this that you can examine in this story, but i think the biggest one/easiest one to think about and explore reading this story is that there is something unspeakably wrong going on in room 6, but the people who are doing this unspeakably wrong thing aren't necessarily bad people, or evil people, or to blame for doing this thing because they are only doing their job, not only that but even if they decided not to do their job they would be subjected to the unspeakable wrong of room 6, and even if they decide not to do their job its not as though room 6 would have to close, because somebody else would come along and do the work that is required in room 6.


i think you can examine a lot of the stories in this collection in terms of morality and right vs. wrong etc. and the nature of choices in light of all of this.


Nancy Thanks!


Letitia I couldn't help answer this question b/c I couldn't finish it. Although, it seems someone was able to help. I just wanted to say that I, too was surprised by the reviews for this book. I absolutely HATED it & though I know others who liked it, find it hard to actually believe anyone enjoyed this book & it feels like a case of, "If the NY Times said it was good, then I should like it!"


Jonathan It's absurd black humor. I am a fan, although I don't believe this is Saunders' best collection. Civilwarland in Bad Decline holds that title.


Bill H. In a way, glad to hear this might not be Saunders' best collection. Read the whole thing and came away impressed with his talent and with some of the stories, but many of them left me cold, not caring about characters that seemed so "thin" and simply living in the moment. Was reading a collection by Tobias Wolff at the same time and was struck by the difference in commitment to character.


Jennifer I don't have the book in front of me anymore, but I loved the story of the attempted abduction of the girl. Edge of my seat. I thought this book had a lot to offer.


Brenda This is the author who wrote the fabulous children's' book "the gappers of frip"


Deke I'll jump in, as George Saunders is worthy of defense (although I think he hardly needs it): His stories are meticulously crafted, but they're not meant to be pleasant little tales, nor are they necessarily character driven. Like Vonnegut his great gift to us all is the clever, sardonic mirror he holds up, allowing us insight into the insanities of our culture and society. My favorite was probably the Semplica Girl Diaries, as it so poignantly cast a sideways light on the high cost of our obsession with conspicuous consumption. Exhortation was also fantastic, blending elements of curiosity, the scientific method, sexuality, pain and the rights of prisoners into a powerful morality tale. It stands as a reminder that there is always another option.


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