The Braindead Megaphone

George Saunders' award-winning fiction uses the absurd to get at the real, and makes the real absurd. He creates imaginative landscapes informed by an underlying sense of how political and social circumstances shape individual lives. Luckily for readers, an editor at GQ realized that Saunders' fierce critical intelligence and deep compassion would make him an excellent international correspondent as well. Saunders' first book of nonfiction essays collects pieces of international reportage from Nepal, the U.S./Mexico border, and Dubai (where he sees the chance for world peace in the passing of a cigarette between Arab teens, German tourists, and U.S. Navy sailors all enjoying the "Wild Wadi" waterpark). Other essays pay tribute to favorite writers (including Esther Forbes, Kurt Vonnegut, Mark Twain, Donald Barthelme); these are nicely supplemented by humor pieces written for The New Yorker and McSweeney's. The title essay, partly informed by Saunders' work as a reporter, reflects on how faux information becomes news and news becomes sound bites. The writer's willingness to consider multiple sides, ability to find humor in pathos, and concern with the politics of language are reminiscent of the nonfiction writing of George Orwell. But Saunders' distinctive voice remains wholly his own.
-

July 28: Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin eloped on this day in 1814.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).