The Braindead Megaphone Thesis

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The opening piece is a contemplation of the thought-cheapening force of modern media, vividly metaphorized as a man at a party with a megaphone, loudly yammering away on pseudo-topics ("We're eating more cheese cubes - and loving it! By virtue of volume, this Megaphone Guy can't help but dominate the conversation, but, more important, the very concept of conversation, of intellectual engagement, erodes away, drowned in the incessant stream of simplisms.

"He has, in effect, put an intelligence-ceiling on the party," Saunders writes.

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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.

While meticulously reported, the book's travelogues best deploy his unique authorial voice, in large part because of his penchant for stumbling onto scenes as surreal as any in his fiction.

In "The New Mecca," he visits the United Arab Emirates and finds himself wandering through an "Arabian Ice City" of both fake and real snow, flanked by "twenty Filipinos with steak knives" and "the crankiest-looking goose imaginable." In "The Great Divider," a journey along and through the U.

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