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.
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April 21: " 'Pull' includes 'invitations to tea' at which one hears smiling reminders that a better life is available to people who stop talking about massacres..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.