November 01, 2008

Better than Coffee?


 

Recently, on a recommendation, I picked up a copy of George Saunders’ book, The Braindead Megaphone. In the best traditions of  Mencken, Vonnegut and Twain, Saunders ruthlessly gores all responsible for the dumbing down of our culture, media and society. In a particularly strong indictment of the media – whose job, he correctly notes, is to simply tell compelling stories – he writes:

The best stories proceed from a mysterious truth-seeking impulse that narrative has when revised extensively; they are complex and baffling and ambiguous; they tend to make us slower to act, rather than quicker. They make us more humble, cause us to empathize with people we don’t know, because they help us imagine these people, and when we imagine them – if the storytelling is good enough – we imagine them as being, essentially, like us. If the story is poor, or has an agenda, if it comes out of a paucity of imagination or is rushed, we imagine those other people as essentially unlike us: unknowable, inscrutable, inconvertible.


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