The Braindead Megaphone

The Braindead Megaphone

3.4 5
by George Saunders
     
 

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From the New York Times bestselling author of Tenth of December, a 2013 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction.

The breakout book from "the funniest writer in America"--not to mention an official "Genius"--his first nonfiction collection ever.

George Saunders's first foray into nonfiction is comprised of essays on literature, travel,See more details below

Overview

From the New York Times bestselling author of Tenth of December, a 2013 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction.

The breakout book from "the funniest writer in America"--not to mention an official "Genius"--his first nonfiction collection ever.

George Saunders's first foray into nonfiction is comprised of essays on literature, travel, and politics. At the core of this unique collection are Saunders's travel essays based on his trips to seek out the mysteries of the "Buddha Boy" of Nepal; to attempt to indulge in the extravagant pleasures of Dubai; and to join the exploits of the minutemen at the Mexican border. Saunders expertly navigates the works of Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, and Esther Forbes, and leads the reader across the rocky political landscape of modern America. Emblazoned with his trademark wit and singular vision, Saunders's endeavor into the art of the essay is testament to his exceptional range and ability as a writer and thinker.

From the author of Tenth of December...

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Editorial Reviews

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 Yorkerlike "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 Fiveand 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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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'sto 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

Kirkus Reviews
This provocatively engaging collection illuminates the thought processes of one of America's masters of literary gamesmanship. Though the magazine pieces that Saunders (In Persuasion Nation, 2006, etc.) has written for the likes of the New Yorker, Harper's and GQ provide an inviting introduction to the unique stylist, devoted fans of his fiction will find their appreciation (and understanding) deepened as the author analyzes the effects that the writing of others has had on him. Not surprisingly, the Chicago-raised writer turned "Eastern liberal" (his description) expresses affinity and affection for such native Midwestern humorists as Kurt Vonnegut (whom he celebrates as a seminal influence) and Mark Twain, while his geometric analysis of a short story by fellow experimentalist Donald Barthelme provides insight into both Barthelme and Saunders. Especially revelatory is "Thank You, Esther Forbes," in which Saunders details how his childhood reading of that author's award-winning Johnny Tremain showed him how and why sentences matter. Yet things are never as straightforward as they seem with Saunders, and what this volume characterizes as "essays" is in fact a typically tricky mix from a writer who resists pigeonholing. Pieces such as "A Survey of the Literature," "Ask the Optimist!," "Woof: A Plea of Sorts" and the utopian closer, "Manifesto: A Press Release From PRKA" (kind of the prose equivalent of John Lennon's "Imagine"), could have fit just as easily into one of his story collections. Longer, reported pieces such as "The Great Divider" (on border immigration issues) and "Buddha Boy" (on a seemingly miraculous meditator) display a profound empathy that resists knee-jerk response.Perhaps the most conventional essay here, and one of the most powerful, is the title piece that opens the collection. Saunders employs "The Braindead Megaphone" as a metaphor for mass media and shows how arguably talented, intelligent individuals have achieved a collective effect of dumbing down the national discourse. Much smarter and more stimulating than the typical author's clean-out-the-closet collection.
From the Publisher
"Some novelists seem to make great reporters. Two of the best journalists of the last 50 years are Norman Mailer and David Foster Wallace; their literary nonfiction is jaw-droppingly good, the equal of their fiction. Maybe it's time to add noted short-story writer George Saunders to this short list... Is Saunders' book on target? Hoo boy. [Grade:] A"—Entertainment Weekly

"Saunders's bitingly clever and compassionate essays are a Mark Twain-syle shot in the arm for Americans, an antidote to the dumbing down virus plaguing our country."—Vanity Fair
 

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101217474
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/04/2007
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
358,672
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author


George Saunders is the author of Tenth of DecemberIn Persuasion Nation; The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil; Pastoralia; CivilWarLand in Bad Decline; The Braindead Megaphone; and a children's book, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip. His work appears regularly in the New Yorker, Harper's and GQ. In 2006, he was awarded a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant." In 2000, The New Yorker named him one of the "Best Writers Under 40."  He is a 2013 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction. He teaches at Syracuse University.

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