Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Book #52: The Braindead Megaphone by George Saunders

Book 52 is the conclusion to book plan 2007....and in the nick of time. I am excited to close out the year with Saunders's words, as I believe him to be one of the most prolific writers of our time (plus he's a hell of a nice guy). His essay collection, The Braindead Megaphone, focuses on two ideas: writing and war. Not really in that order. He talks about war in Iraq, war of borders, war of people, and war of man against himself as an individual. He meditates while freezing his ass off in Nepal and contemplates the fragility of humanity as well as its remarkable strength.

The Braindead Megaphone is also a writing handbook. In various essays he focuses directly on writing, on craft elements that are danced around in the best of workshops, and explains what's what in the writing world and how writers can best achieve their own success. He extends the handbook further into the "non-writing" essays by showing (rather than telling, yes?) how important it is to not only report events but to contemplate them. To look for and apply human experience on levels deeper than the surface, and to treat them both seriously and humorously.

George Saunders is a man who is unafraid and unapologetic about his views, yet so unassuming and modest about those views that they almost sneak up on a reader as given fact rather than one man's opinion. It is his strength of voice and conviction, an attitude of "here it is. It's mine, take it or leave it", that endeared me to him when I met him and endears me to him every time I read his work. I will read this collection of essays again, some more than others, and all for different reasons than I read them the first time.

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