Short-story master George Saunders has perfected a form that we’re gonna go ahead and call hysterical empathy: stories in which the regular guy, thrust into ever more cruel and absurd situations, endures. These essays pack the same punch as his fiction. “Humor is what happens when we’re told the truth quicker and more directly than we’re used to,” Saunders writes in a tribute to his forebear Kurt Vonnegut. He brings that perceptive humor to bear on Iraq-era media, Dubai’s architecture, Borat, and more.
The Braindead Megaphone
By George Saunders; Riverhead; $14.