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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)
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George Saunders’s Braindead Megaphone uses the fiction author’s trademark ability to, as the Boston Globe puts it, "convert his sorrow about mankind into exquisite comedies of disappointment" and applies it to the sometimes surreal and often discomfiting world around him. While most critics appreciate Saunders’s attempt to provide a counterpoint to America’s vitriol-filled but ultimately meaningless media punditry, both the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times ridicule his humanistic approach as naïve and overly optimistic. One’s reaction to Saunders’ essays seems to hinge largely on one’s acceptance of his liberal perspective, his faith in the power of narrative, and his primary assertion that "the stories we choose to consume take our measure as a species" (Boston Globe).
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.See all Editorial Reviews
Saunders should eschew "humor." His "insightful" essays need all the attention he can give them.Published 4 months ago by Warren Yoder
Whenever and wherever George Saunders goes I go as well. I nearly froze to death in Tibet and feared for the lives and sanity along the Texas/Mexico border. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Julie Imhof
It is okay. It is a little non-linear and has a few topics that can cause a debate.Published 6 months ago by Justin mermelstein
Saunders fiction is fantastic, but this is something else entirely. His style fits perfectly in non-fiction, and his metaphors something something im drunkPublished 10 months ago by R. Fields
In the title essay, the Megaphone Guy struts in, sets up his amplified bray, and his listeners find themselves unable to carry on their conversations, forced as they are to adopt... Read morePublished 13 months ago by John L Murphy
George Saunders' short stories and fiction are arcanely smart and I always experience a "pleasure burst" of surprise when I roll out of his wildly inventive narrative and... Read morePublished 23 months ago by A. colbert
I had never heard of Saunders until the positive press associated with Tenth of December. Bought this on a whim and got through it in a week - a couple of the essays were really... Read morePublished on August 10, 2013 by Michael Herring
I found the quality of the essays included to vary quite a bit. That being said, the purchase is justified by the title essay alone.Published on July 27, 2013 by Adam