George Saunders newest short story collection The Tenth of December has been released just in time for the third season continuation of The Walking Dead which airs February 10th on AMC. The show is a morality tale set during a zombie apocalypse. Currently it’s the most literary drama on American television (and that ain’t the third Glenlivet talking). It out-dramatizes and out-thinks both Mad Men and Homeland. Like many British shows (MI-5), The Walking Dead is not afraid to kill off main characters. There’s more at philosophical stake. More hermeneutic and proairetic coding (if you’re into that kind of thing). But what’s this all got to do with Saunders? Zombies. That’s what. Saunders is the best zombie author who’s ever lived or maybe lived. Forget the resurrection tales of John the Apostle and Luke the Evangelist. To hell with Mary Shelley. Nobody brings the dead back to life like George Saunders.
I can’t watch The Walking Dead without thinking of Aunt Bernie from Saunders’ short story “Sea Oak.” The resurrected Aunt Bernie is a white trash Nietzschean ubermensch. As a literary character, I’d take her over Jesus or Frankenstein any day. I haven’t yet read Tenth of December, but I’ve read previously published versions of the stories in Harper’s and The New Yorker. The stories of this new collection lack the zombies and ghosts of earlier books such as Pastoralia and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. It’s been described as more Sherwood Anderson than Vonnegut. The new Saunders collection is about right and wrong—the wrongs society inflicts upon the downtrodden as they try their damnedest to do the right thing and the consequential wrongs they commit as a result of such futility. Rick Grimes, the protagonist of The Walking Dead, continually finds himself in a similar quandary, which is now my only justification for simultaneously plugging my favorite short story author and television show in the same blog post.
Boston native Eugenio Volpe is a PEN Discovery Award winner and Pushcart nominee. He teaches creative writing at Arizona State University’s Piper Studio. His short stories have appeared in publications such as Salamander, New York Tyrant, Post Road, Solstice Literary Magazine, and dozens more.