The breakout book from "the funniest writer in America"-not to mention an official Genius-a trade paperback original and his first nonfiction collection ever.
George Saunders's first foray into nonfiction is comprised of essays on literature, travel, and politics. At the core of this unique collection are Saunders's travel essays based on his trips to seek out the mysteries of the "Buddha Boy" of Nepal; to attempt to indulge in the extravagant pleasures of Dubai; and to join the exploits of the minutemen at the Mexican border. Saunders expertly navigates the works of Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, and Esther Forbes, and leads the reader across the rocky political landscape of modern America. Emblazoned with his trademark wit and singular vision, Saunders's endeavor into the art of the essay is testament to his exceptional range and ability as a writer and thinker.
Best known for his absurdist, sci-fi-tinged short stories, Saunders (In Persuasion Nation) offers up an assortment of styles in his first nonfiction collection. Humor pieces from the New Yorker like Ask the Optimist, in which a newspaper advice column spins out of control, reflect the gleeful insanity of his fiction, while others display more earnestness, falling short of his best work. In the title essay, for example, his lament over the degraded quality of American media between the trial of O.J. Simpson and the 9/11 terrorist attacks is indistinguishable from the complaints of any number of cultural commentators. Fortunately, longer travel pieces written for GQ, where Saunders wanders through the gleaming luxury hotels of Dubai or keeps an overnight vigil over a teenage boy meditating in the Nepalese jungle, are enriched by his eye for odd detail and compassion for the people he encounters. He also discusses some of his most important literary influences, including Slaughterhouse Five and Johnny Tremain (he holds up the latter as my first model of beautiful compression--the novel that made him want to be a writer). Despite a few rough spots, these essays contain much to delight. (Sept. 8)
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September 04, 2007
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