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 24: "[The HST] lifted a curtain from our view of the universe, changing it so profoundly that no human can look at the stars in the same way..."

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.