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The braindead megaphone : essays
George Saunders
Adult Nonfiction PS3569.A7897 B73 2007

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Best known for his absurdist, sci-fi-tinged short stories, Saunders (In Persuasion Nation) offers up an assortment of styles in his first nonfiction collection. Humor pieces from the New Yorker like "Ask the Optimist," in which a newspaper advice column spins out of control, reflect the gleeful insanity of his fiction, while others display more earnestness, falling short of his best work. In the title essay, for example, his lament over the degraded quality of American media between the trial of O.J. Simpson and the 9/11 terrorist attacks is indistinguishable from the complaints of any number of cultural commentators. Fortunately, longer travel pieces written for GQ, where Saunders wanders through the gleaming luxury hotels of Dubai or keeps an overnight vigil over a teenage boy meditating in the Nepalese jungle, are enriched by his eye for odd detail and compassion for the people he encounters. He also discusses some of his most important literary influences, including Slaughterhouse Five and Johnny Tremain (he holds up the latter as "my first model of beautiful compression"-the novel that made him want to be a writer). Despite a few rough spots, these essays contain much to delight. (Sept. 8) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Saunders, best known as a fiction writer (e.g., CivilWarLand in Bad Decline), uses the skills he's honed writing for The New Yorker, GQ, and Harper's to take on politics, literature, and religion in his first essay collection. In the title piece, he discusses the many ways in which the media have become a "braindead megaphone." He compares on-air coverage of celebrity news (from the O.J. Simpson Bronco chase to Paris Hilton's incarceration) with that of hard news (e.g., the famine in Darfur and America's dependency on oil), finding the traditional television media caving to the pressure for ratings and advertising. If blame is to be assigned, he writes, a "lazy media, false promises, and political doublespeak" are the culprits. In other essays, Saunders wonders what has happened to the spirit and wisdom of Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut in American letters. "Mr. Vonnegut in Sumatra" is particularly timely and poignant. This lively read, by turns funny, frightening, and fascinating, is recommended for all public and academic libraries with large nonfiction collections.-Pam Kingsbury, Univ. of North Alabama, Florence (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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