As a creative writing lecturer, Saunders has an obvious love of language and this is not just expressed through his fluid writing style. In a series of personal essays Saunders covers how Esther Forbes' book was the book that first got him interested in writing and how Kurt Vonnegut's is an influence on him. Saunders also includes a few brief pieces of fiction writing, like his hilarious faux letters page 'Ask the Optimist' and his interesting writing experiment 'Woof' - a plea written from a dog's point-of-view. A word of warning: if you have any interest in reading Mark Twain's then do not read Saunders' piece 'The United States of Huck' – though not a bad piece, it does tell you too much about the story including its ending.
What marks Saunders' political essays out is their immense affability – never resorting to polemic, Saunders pieces are consistently thoughtful and reasoned. Title piece 'The Brain-Dead Megaphone' is a great introduction to the book, entertaining and inviting throughout as it slowly develops from a piece about the loud ignorant people to the dumbing down of news media. 'The Great Divider' is an extraordinary piece of investigative journalism highlighting the problems of immigration between Mexico and the United States; it covers all sides of the story from a human perspective, while he remains open minded about a contentious issue. As he meets with the Minutemen, a vigilante group who watch along the border for illegal immigrants, Saunders doesn't paint these men as racist red-neck caricatures but instead shows them as hard-working patriots wanting a decent future for their families.
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This could have been an indulgent mess, but instead it is one of the most enjoyable essay collections I've read since the work of . is like the best magazine you've never read, a variety of well written, impassioned, and entertaining pieces from a writer you'd love to go for a drink with.
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American author George Saunders is known for his short stories and fiction, but he's also a journalist for publications such as , and . is his first collection of essays and it's an interesting proposition: sixteen pieces ranging from travel writing, literary appreciation, political essays, to surrealist short fiction.