[ Reading ] ➶ The Brain-Dead Megaphone Author George Saunders – Thomashillier.co.uk



10 thoughts on “The Brain-Dead Megaphone

  1. says:

    There is a nice confluence between this book and DFW s Consider the Lobster in particular the last of Wallace s essays, which is on American talk radio, segues seamlessly into the Saunders first essay, The Braindead Megaphone , which is as good an essay on the dumbing influence of mainstream media as I ve ever read Oh, and it s fucking hilarious, which when you think about it, why shouldn t it be So I had never read GS before, neither his fiction nor non fiction, and DFW is a hard act to fo There is a nice confluence between this book and DFW s Consider the Lobster in particular the last of Wallace s essays, which is on American talk radio, segues seamlessly into the Saunders first essay, The Braindead Megaphone , which is as good an essay on the dumbing influence of mainstream media as I ve ever read Oh, and it s fucking hilarious, which when you think about it, why shouldn t it be So I had never read GS before, neither his fiction nor non fiction, and DFW is a hard act to follow, let me tell you But they write with a similar style, both tending to write about writing what you are now reading and often openly discussing the difficulties of being lucid, which paradoxically makes forlucid writing.Saunders is less brainy , if you want to call it that Whereas DFW is nervous in the high strung neurotic sense and is constantly worried about seeming pretentious, which itself is a kind of pretension, GS iscomfortable in his skin, his open mindedness, pacifism, and general wonder in the world.The gems for me were the title essay, the essays on writing namely Thank You, Esther Forbes , Mr Vonnegut in Sumatra , and to a lesser extent gem wise, not writing subject wise The Perfect Gerbil and his introduction to Huck Finn that s got to stroke the ego, eh , which heor less steals pays hommage, whatever to Vonnegut s Slaugherhouse Five by opening with his own difficulties undertaking the understably daunting task of writing an intro which you are at this moment reading to what might be the greatest American novel ever written if you believe Hemingway, for example Some of the other essaysovertly satirical I liked, but is just Not My Cup of Tea and readslike Jack Handey s stuff in Shouts Murmurs of the New Yorker What s left are his travel essays for GQ, which frankly I wouldn t have been heart broken to miss Again though, I should say it was good and as far as typical travel writing goes its really good just NMCoT.In short, what you d really like is notGS books, butpeople like GS inahbiting the world or at least the US He approaches writing with humor, humility, doubt, and an appreciation for how difficult it is to get through the things that really suck in life Until everyone swallows the reflective thoughtful nice funny person pill, let s be grateful at least we can read GS books


  2. says:

    Based on this collection, George Saunders joins David Foster Wallace on the bench of terrifically smart writers I admire tremendously and who seem like wonderful, funny, mensch like people this sentence needs a but, so here it is BUT, whose very cleverness can sometimes sabotage their writing Ultimately, an excess of cleverness marred In Persuasion Nation for me, and the same is true of this collection There are some terrific pieces the title essay, in particular, is a tour de force I Based on this collection, George Saunders joins David Foster Wallace on the bench of terrifically smart writers I admire tremendously and who seem like wonderful, funny, mensch like people this sentence needs a but, so here it is BUT, whose very cleverness can sometimes sabotage their writing Ultimately, an excess of cleverness marred In Persuasion Nation for me, and the same is true of this collection There are some terrific pieces the title essay, in particular, is a tour de force I loved his analysis of the Barthelme story and the essay on Twain The piece on Dubai and Thought Experiment were great, but I think both have been anthologized previously, as I d read each already Although Buddha Boy was well written, the subject matter didn t interest me all that much A Survey of the Literature , Ask the Optimist and Manifesto were considerably less successful, each bogging down in its own cleverness long before reaching a merciful end So, this collection stacks up pretty much like every David Foster Wallace collection I ve ever bought and I ve bought them all two or three essays so brilliant they leave me breathless, three or fourthat are good, but not great, and some that are just headache inducing Except that generally Wallace s brilliance can land him a fourth star Not the case for Saunders


  3. says:

    This essay collection was a mixed bag for me Many of the essays are dated at this point and a lot are infused with his goofy, Midwestern humor that doesn t resonate with me, even though I m from the Midwest Amidst that humor, however, are profound insights into our culture and life in general Where Saunders really shines, though, is when he writes about writing I just wished there had beenof those essays in the collection.


  4. says:

    Truth be told, I d like to give the book 4.65 stars but oh my Jesus, George has done it again And by done it I mean been funny not compiled his previously published non fiction into one book cause then again would have to read for the first time, and that s not what I wanted to say No matter Still so funny, is my point If read in one go the humor might, on occasion, seem overbearing essays like Ask the Optimist or Woof, I thought, were somewhat stale or, dare I say it, Truth be told, I d like to give the book 4.65 stars but oh my Jesus, George has done it again And by done it I mean been funny not compiled his previously published non fiction into one book cause then again would have to read for the first time, and that s not what I wanted to say No matter Still so funny, is my point If read in one go the humor might, on occasion, seem overbearing essays like Ask the Optimist or Woof, I thought, were somewhat stale or, dare I say it, trite But when he turns his perceptively comedic eye on the real world Dubai, Brownsville Texas, crappy American culture his signature absurdist voice resonates clearly and with tremendous feeling Smart, sharp, compassionate and sly, George Saunders is not to be missed.The book also includes a handful of essays on writers writing Barthelme, Vonnegut, Twain, et al that are astute and useful to anyone interested in the nuances of storytelling


  5. says:

    This collection of essays from George Saunders covers a wide range of territory, discussing everything from the author s experiences visiting the Buddha Boy of Nepal to an analysis of Twain s Huckleberry Finn Saunders sharp eye and even sharper wit come across in most all of these essays, though I think his talent is best displayed in the longer travel pieces His humor is balanced with a good deal of heartfelt emotion when he writes about watching Arab children see snow for the first time in t This collection of essays from George Saunders covers a wide range of territory, discussing everything from the author s experiences visiting the Buddha Boy of Nepal to an analysis of Twain s Huckleberry Finn Saunders sharp eye and even sharper wit come across in most all of these essays, though I think his talent is best displayed in the longer travel pieces His humor is balanced with a good deal of heartfelt emotion when he writes about watching Arab children see snow for the first time in the surreal fairy tale of modern Dubai, and his travels along the US Mexico border in search of greater understanding of the immigration issue reveal a world far too complex to be explained in a sound bite The title essay, about the decline of intelligent content in mass media, is particularly spot on Overall, a very worthwhile and entertaining read


  6. says:

    I d be giving this book 3 stars if not for an essay on forming sentences In Thank you, Esther Forbes Saunders recalls his emerging love for sentences formed with deliberation and the effects of honest brevity Wow and wow because if I ever find a guy that can recall the moment he fell in love with the structure of a sentence, I ll do anything and everything within my means to make him love me and if he doesn t love me, I ll just kidnap him and tie him to a chair and make him read aloud to I d be giving this book 3 stars if not for an essay on forming sentences In Thank you, Esther Forbes Saunders recalls his emerging love for sentences formed with deliberation and the effects of honest brevity Wow and wow because if I ever find a guy that can recall the moment he fell in love with the structure of a sentence, I ll do anything and everything within my means to make him love me and if he doesn t love me, I ll just kidnap him and tie him to a chair and make him read aloud to me every night wait did Steven king already write that story line Possibly the ugliest book cover ever created


  7. says:

    This book is like a summary of how I feel about George Saunders sometimes hilarious, insightful, moving, surprising, and sometimes just gimmicky and self indulgent and annoying A few of the essays the Dubai one, the dog one are pretty great A lot of them are okay A few are awful, especially the ones that are supposed to be about some idea or issue but are really just all about how clever the author is Overall, a disappointment, but worth reading if you re willing to skip around I still l This book is like a summary of how I feel about George Saunders sometimes hilarious, insightful, moving, surprising, and sometimes just gimmicky and self indulgent and annoying A few of the essays the Dubai one, the dog one are pretty great A lot of them are okay A few are awful, especially the ones that are supposed to be about some idea or issue but are really just all about how clever the author is Overall, a disappointment, but worth reading if you re willing to skip around I still love George but now I have evenexceptions to my love


  8. says:

    One of those mixed bag books you get when you re a hot commodity P Can we pull together enough assorted stuff you wrote to make a spine thick enough to print your name on it Great chaching chaching The essays on writing were interesting Great to getinsight into Saunders style and his teaching method.It seems to me that Saunders style is but one way of approaching writing Whenever someone seems so singularly brilliant, in any field, I forget they re just one person who doesn t One of those mixed bag books you get when you re a hot commodity P Can we pull together enough assorted stuff you wrote to make a spine thick enough to print your name on it Great chaching chaching The essays on writing were interesting Great to getinsight into Saunders style and his teaching method.It seems to me that Saunders style is but one way of approaching writing Whenever someone seems so singularly brilliant, in any field, I forget they re just one person who doesn t possess all the answers You can perfect the Barthelme Vonnegut Saunders writing mode, for example, but it would just be one writing mode Personally, when I read the stories of these guys, I picture everyone as something like a tiny cartoon character They don t feel like real people Whereas something like David Foster Wallace even Bret Easton Ellis style maximalism makes everything seem hyperreal,detailed than the world itself.JOKE ALERT JOKE ALERT REVIEWER IS KIDDING But you know, at the end of the day, the straighter, whiter and Americaner the writer, theI m on board Bonus points if they re dead JOKE HAS CEASED HOWEVER, AUTHOR RESERVES RIGHT TO CLAIM A MINIMUM OF HUMOROUS TONE IN ANY OTHER SENTENCE IN THIS REVIEW, INCLUDING THIS ONE.I guess it depends on your mood.The other journalism stuff was mostly great and sometimes okay.Yes, give this one a go, why not


  9. says:

    This is, hands down, the worst book of essays that I have ever read The discussion was so perfunctory and the style such poorly adapted Vonnegut that I felt insulted that I was even expected to finish it which I did, assuming that, surely, it had to get better.What s doubly frustrating is that I dove into this one with high hopes I mean, c mon, Saunders is often mentioned in the same breath as David Foster Wallace who I d comfortably assert is one of the best essayists of his generation A This is, hands down, the worst book of essays that I have ever read The discussion was so perfunctory and the style such poorly adapted Vonnegut that I felt insulted that I was even expected to finish it which I did, assuming that, surely, it had to get better.What s doubly frustrating is that I dove into this one with high hopes I mean, c mon, Saunders is often mentioned in the same breath as David Foster Wallace who I d comfortably assert is one of the best essayists of his generation As it turns out, these comparisons are a crime Let s do a simple compare and contrast Seriously, super simple two sentences from each One sentence from Saunders title essay on television The Braindead Megaphone really, that s your title , you re not even trying dude and one from Wallace s 93 expose on TV, E Unibus Pluram Television and U.S Fiction which I hold as fairly instrumental to contextualizing whatever you want to call the modern post post modern fiction movement.Saunders But I think we re in an hour of special danger, if only because our technology has become so loud, slick, and seductive, it s powers of self critique so insufficient and glacial The era of the jackboot is over the forces that come for our decency, humor, and freedom will be extolling, in beautiful voices, the virtue of decency, humor, and freedom okay, two sentences So, it s been over 70 years since Brave New World, 40 since The Medium is the Massage, and over 20 since Amusing Ourselves to Death and Saunders, seeking to advance our understanding of the effects of television, has showed up to suggest that TV just might be deceptive, addictive, and mind numbing which is essentially his thesis with some stuff about George W Bush thrown in for good measure Not exactly novel suggestions.Now, Wallace And to the extent that it can train viewers to laugh at characters unending put downs of one another, to view ridicule as both the mode of social intercourse and the ultimate art form, television can reinforce its own queer ontology of appearance the most frightening prospect, for the well conditioned viewer, becomes leaving oneself open to others ridicule by betraying pass expressions of value, emotion, or vulnerability Other people become judges the crime is na vet Granted, these are only snippets from each work and do little to inform the uninitiated reader of the overall sensibilities of each piece However, I will say this the Saunders quote sounds like the kind of reductive silliness that I used to spout off after watching Fight Club too many times during my junior year of high school The Wallace quote, on the other hand, sounds like part of an intriguing discussion on modern identity under the complicated social forces created by TV.I m not sure what makes me angrier how lousy Saunders book is or his greatly inflated reputation I do know that if I were John and Catherine, I would ask for a refund To be fair, I have not read any of Saunders fiction and, while I m not optimistic, I hope that I will be pleasantly surprised Maybe nonfiction just isn t his thing


  10. says:

    I thought this collection was going to kick so much ass, because the first story was so witty and in your face The rest, however not so great The author, ironically, didn t seem to acknowledge his privilege and Western bias that he seemed to be so aware of, initially Basically, he was saying, the braindead megaphone means that whoever has the loudest voice, is most interesting able to get people to listen to them, gets heard the most A fairly simple sentiment but the implications of wh I thought this collection was going to kick so much ass, because the first story was so witty and in your face The rest, however not so great The author, ironically, didn t seem to acknowledge his privilege and Western bias that he seemed to be so aware of, initially Basically, he was saying, the braindead megaphone means that whoever has the loudest voice, is most interesting able to get people to listen to them, gets heard the most A fairly simple sentiment but the implications of which I believe have important and troubling political and social effects However, completely oblivious, he goes on to talk about how GQ paid him to like stay in seriously this fucking mansion hotel in the Middle East, which exists solely, apparently, to be lavish and over the top and to cater towards the rich That story was just him describing all the awesome hings in the hotel and talking about some of the poor not ridiculously rich people who d come by and look at it in awe but weren t able to afford to stay there, obviously And then he complained a lot b c there was some problem with the payment thing for his stay as I said, he was having it all paid for him, so he could write this report about it, I guess and he just came across as a whiny, ungrateful little twat There is an account about the boy in India who sat for months upon end, meditating, with no food or water, that was interesting This happened several years ago, and I vaguely remember it being reported in the media I think I liked this one, though, because the subject itself is interesting, his reflection upon visiting the boy was not particularly interesting insightful, and a major part of it consisted about him whining about how COLD he was the ONE night he spent sleeping outside in India Whiiine.Basically, it just read like a lot of lazy psuedo journalism Strangely, this kind of writing is the style that I could see myself writing in I don t mean shitty psuedo journalism, I mean kind of op ed reflections on events and such things , were I ever to publish some kind of book theoretically and this is largely b c I can t write fiction for shit SO There are a few amusing things throughout though. there was one story that was geniunely hilarious Forgot what it was called I d recommend that if you get this book just read the first story. the really funny one It s the one that s in letter answer format, it d kind of a parody thing and. maybe the one about the India kid Skip the rest, you won t miss anything


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The Brain-Dead Megaphone Saunders Trains His Eye On The Real World Rather Than The Fictional For The First Time, Shows That It Too Is Brimmming With Wonderful, Marvellous Strangeness, Whether It Be In The Surreal Opulence Of Dubai, The Mind Bending Self Denial Of The Buddha Boy Of Nepal, Or Even The Seemingly Mundane Transactions Of Everyday American Life