George Saunders - The Brain-Dead Megaphone (3 stars)

The Brain-Dead Megaphone

(Bloomsbury)

ESSAY COLLECTION

In his first collection of essays, George Saunders tries out a number of styles as he patrols the American border, investigates the British national character and bemoans the degraded quality of the American media, catalysed by the OJ Simpson case and crystallised by 9/11. He also invokes the wisdom of his literary heroes, including Twain and Vonnegut (as a result, he has been compared to them) and slides into satire, never failing to come across as a decent guy with a wild imagination.

His liberal consciousness irradiates ‘A Survey of the Literature’ and ‘Manifesto’. Longer travel narratives, where he freezes alongside a boy wonder of Nepal or explores unbelievable luxury in Dubai, interweave humour, humility and a sharp eye for subtle detail. Sometimes his reportage is so earnest it makes your teeth hurt, but the overall effect is as gleefully absurdist as ever.

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