Read This, Watch That: Tenth of December and Black Mirror

tenth of dec black mirror

This pairing was actually recommended in a recent episode of the Books on the Nightstand podcast. In a great twist of fate, I placed a library hold on Tenth of December the day before listening to the episode and ended up binge watching the show while I read. It was perfection.

Tenth of December by George Saunders

Remember when short stories weren’t my thing? I think I was just reading the wrong short stories. I’ve discovered through Margaret Atwood’s Stone Mattress, Simon Rich’s Spoiled Brats and now George Saunders that the format is perfect for dark humor and satire. The raves you’ve heard about Tenth of December? They’re all spot on. So much of what I loved about Spoiled Brats is echoed in this collection, but twisted to critique money, morality and human connection in a society just one tick off our own. My favorite story follows a father who wins the lottery and immediately buys a set of Semplica Girls—women from third-world countries paid to act as lawn ornaments—in order to keep up with the wealthy families in his children’s classrooms. Saunders also demonstrates his ability to write a perfectly passive aggressive mass e-mail (re: quality control) from a supervisor that’s nearly impossible not to giggle through.

Black Mirror (Channel 4/Available on Netflix)

Black Mirror is old news for those of you in the UK, but it just hit Netflix in the US so we’re jumping on the bandwagon. The show’s two seasons are both just three episodes long, with a completely different cast and storyline each episode, and focus on the “dark side of technology”. Are we seeing the short story connection? It’s billed as sci-fi, but in many episodes feels more like a hyper-advanced version of our own society, which is very similar to the settings created by George Saunders in Tenth of December. The trailer below combines elements from the first three episodes and gives a good overview of the show (slightly NSFW, watch out for the swears!).

  • I haven’t read Tenth of December (I’m still kind of averted to short stories), but HA! A guy buys women to use as lawn ornaments?! I might need to check this one out…

  • Kerry M

    I’ve had the Tenth of December on my shelf since it first came out. In hardcover. And I haven’t read it yet. But you may have just pushed it up on my (already bursting-at-the-seams) list, and that BBC show looks SO DIVINE. (I need a new show to tide me over until Orphan Black is back, anyway…)

    • I can’t believe I waited so long on Tenth of December, but I absolutely devoured it. Black Mirror is only six episodes, so it’s so bingeable…we watched all of them this weekend.

  • He buys women and uses them as lawn ornaments?!? That’s either super hilarious or super creepy or hmmm…both. I will have to check Netflix for Black Mirror!

  • Love this series, I think it is time to rewatch it again. George Saunders makes a good pairing but I’ve only read Tenth of December. I hear his other collections are more like Black Mirror so I’m excited to read them.

    Another author I think reminds me of Black Mirrors is the UK Sci-Fi author James Smythe. His book The Machine has the same sort of vibe and is almosts a Frankenstein for the 21st century.

    • I’m sure you could guess my leap into Saunders was prompted by Literary Disco :) I loved the section Rider read from one of his older collections, so I’m definitely interested in going through his backlist now, too.

  • Ooh, I’ve been so curious about Black Mirror and you make it sound so good. I haven’t heard of Tenth of December, but it sounds intriguing too.

  • I still haven’t read Tenth of December, but I really need to remedy that! Black Mirror sounds really interesting.

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