It takes a certain talent to condense a well-developed plot into a short story. It can be difficult, in this abbreviated form, to create complex characters or a believable world for them to reside in. George Saunders tackles this challenge 10 times in his latest book, and does it so well that each story leaves the reader feeling as satisfied as if they had finished a full length novel.
In Tenth of December, every story has a brand new point of view, place in time, and conflict for its protagonist to face. There is a story set in the future, just far enough away that we can recognize details of our time next to the brand new phenomena. One story describes the conscience of a character who witnessed a rape and kept quiet. Another simply describes a family trying to adopt a pet dog.
The only unifying element between each story is the personal way they are presented. Every story is told in casual prose that realistically mimics the way thoughts float in and out of our minds. This approach pulls the reader in immediately, creating an intimacy with the nameless characters who are diverse, yet universally honest. I spent three quarters of one story in agreement with the main character, judging others through her perspective. The last page switched to another character’s thoughts and in doing so, flipped my perception as well.
The plots run so complex and nuanced, each one demands to be reread. To tell a full story, with its introduction, problem, and some sort of resolution in only a few pages forces every detail to be incredibly deliberate. Saunders chooses his words so carefully that every line brings up something new and essential. I can’t say that I wasn’t left wanting more, but I never felt shortchanged. Most of the stories hit me emotionally and lingered in my thoughts long after I had finished them. Short, sweet, and a bit dark, each story was fully satisfying.
I had to make a bite-sized dish full of complex flavors to represent the stories in Tenth of December. Chocolate truffles recall the way each story dealt with somewhat dark, poignant themes, though Saunders has a way of using brief elements of optimism to keep his stories from being too tragic. To complement the dark chocolate, I decided to fill the truffles with raspberry for a taste of the sweetness I found in the stories. These decadent desserts are easy to make but require some waiting time — perfect for finishing a story or two.
DARK CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY TRUFFLES
- ¾ cup seedless raspberry jam
- 1 ¾ cup dark chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3 tbsp butter
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Place chopped dark chocolate in a large pot on medium high heat. Slowly mix in heavy cream, stirring slowly. Bring to a boil.
As cream begins to boil, lower heat and begin whisking mixture together until it forms a thick consistency. Add in butter and continue to whisk until smooth.
Soften raspberry jam over a low flame before adding it to the mixture.
Once the chocolate mixture is smoothly blended, transfer to a bowl and place in refrigerator overnight.
Place a piece of wax or parchment paper over a cookie sheet. Take out chocolate and scoop out teaspoon-sized dollops. Run over in your hands until round, and place on the cookie sheet. Continue until all chocolate has been used.
After truffles have been rolled, drop them one at a time into the bowl of cocoa powder, rolling them gently until evenly covered. This step has the added bonus of keeping the truffles in shape.
Your truffles are now complete! Keep in refrigerator until ready to serve.
Adapted from Rook No. 17