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Posts Tagged ‘Dave Eggers’

Rethinking Dave Eggers

January 11, 2010 1 comment

I may need to cut Dave Eggers some slack. What could cause this considerable change of heart?

Nothing but THIS.

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9. “A Heart-Breaking Work of Staggering Genius,” Dave Eggers

January 6, 2010 1 comment

Remember all those times I said I liked Dave Eggers?

I was badly mistaken.

Listen, friend, I have a lot of paranoid fantasies, too, but funny as I think they are, I don’t write four-hundred-page “memoirs” populated almost entirely with anecdotes that didn’t happen and maddeningly self-conscious (and repetitive!) monologues.

So this (purported) memoir is begins with both of Eggers’ parents dying of different forms of cancer a few weeks apart. Eggers, at twenty-two, agrees to take over raising his eight-year-old brother Toph and Eggers, Toph, and their older siblings Beth and Bill all move from the Chicago suburb where they grew up to California.

This book mostly follows Eggers adventures in raising Toph while attempting to have a normal social life, not be turned in to CPS, and creating a magazine (Might– “power and potential”), in, as I said, some incredibly self-conscious prose. Several times Eggers, inside of dialogue he is “quoting” will start reflecting on how if course this didn’t happen like that, but this makes for a better metaphor or symbolism or is better-paced this way.

All of this basically has the effect of making me constantly flip back to the front cover and wonder if the bit of text proclaiming that the book was short-listed for a Pulitzer is as tongue-in-cheek as the title itself. (By the way, I kept forgetting the title of this and my latest mangling is “A Heart-Stopping Work of Unstopable Whatever.”)

The first half sort of bothered me, but when I got to page 200 and Eggers says in one of those dialogues that didn’t happen that the second half of the book is even more self-conscious, it was all I could do not to shout “more self-conscious than this!” on the train. Because the book started with “Rules and Suggestions for Enjoyment of This Book.” Which would have been funny. If it were not thirty-five pages long.

My recommendation: skip anything where Eggers pretends to be himself (he can’t possibly actually be this awful) and stick with the short stories, which are often pretty lovely.

Page count: 472
Page total: 2,075

PS, Dave:

“Stop Being So Religious”
by Hafiz

What
Do sad people have in
Common?

It seems
They have all built a shrine
To the past

And often go there
And do a strange wail and
Worship.

What is the beginning of
Happiness?

It is to stop being
So religious

Like

That.

7. “How We Are Hungry,” Dave Eggers

December 23, 2009 2 comments

Dave Eggers is a fucking master of titles. Will you check this shit out?

– “Another”
– “What it means when a crowd in a faraway nation takes a soldier representing your own nation, shoots him, drags him from his vehicle and then mutilates him in the dust”
– “The only meaning of the oil-wet water”
– “On wanting to have three walls up before she gets home”
– “Climbing to the window, pretending to dance”
– “She waits, seething, blooming”
– “Quiet”
– “Your mother and I”
– “Naveed ”
– “Notes for a story of a man who will not die alone”
– “About the man who began flying after meeting her”
– “Up the mountain coming down slowly”
– “There are some things he should keep to himself”
– “When they learned to yelp”
– “After I was thrown in the river and before I drowned”

He barely needs to write the story after that. And, in fact, in “There Are Some Things He Should Keep to Himself,” he doesn’t. The story is six blank pages. The clever bastard.

I thought about how to say this next bit the whole time I was brushing my teeth– and I brush my teeth for the full two minutes, which is, you may not realize, a long time when all you are doing is moving a toothbrush in small circles and trying (and in my case, failing) to dribble toothpaste foam on yourself. Eggers’ stories never really feel finished. Not in a bad way (like can be said of many of Raymond Carvers’ exercises in oddly-paced, ennui-soaked frustration), but instead they just seem to understand that real people’s stories go on even after their part in them is done. So of course these little character sketches would never seem done. Though all of his characters seem to have the same sort of flat affect, I liked it because I am at the same crappy point in my life when nothing is wrong, and I’m too apathetic to even call this depression, and also too apathetic to panic that this universal suckitude is just the way life is sometimes. Oh wait. Found some panic.

I’ll also add that the proceeds from this book go to 826 Valencia, which is a writing workshop Eggers co-founded. Which just makes me think he is a stand-up, though emotionally manipulative guy.

Page count: 224
Page total: 1,409

Quotes follow! Read more…

33. “The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2008”

May 18, 2009 Leave a comment

I’ve been in a short story mood lately. I guess it’s because I just finished up undergrad, so I’m enjoying the feeling of reading and having time to read, but I want it to feel casual and relatively commitment-free. The day after graduation, some friends and I went to a book store and two of us ended up buying this (for six bucks!). I’m glad I did. There’s an interesting variety: everything from profiles of Bill Clinton from GQ to lists of the last sentences of books published in 2007 to comics to more traditional short stories.

My favorite stories are “Best American Facebook Groups,” “Best American Kurt Vonnegut Writings” (in memorium quotes from Vonnegut’s stories), “Darkness” by Andrew Sean Greer, and “Searching for Zion” Emily Raboteau. Check out the BANR blog here.

Page count: 363
Page total: 16,445
LOEP entry, BC
Next up: Any of the five “Best American” books I checked out with my shiny new library card. Or maybe “The Quiet American,” which Anthony Bourdain was plugging on “No Reservations” tonight.

“After I was Thrown in the River and Before I Drowned”, Dave Eggers

January 9, 2008 2 comments

So, I’ve been thinking about what I want to write about and even though it’s not the last thing I read, here we go:

After I was Thrown in the River and Before I Drowned“, Dave Eggers
A dog narrates a story about his life.

My sister showed me this story. She has only read it once.

I knew I wanted to talk about this short story. But I also knew I hadn’t been drinking enough water to do so. To give you an idea. So this is a story told by Steve, a dog, who is a very fast runner. He runs all over his city/town, watching people. He has a park where he races his dog friends, and they try to jump two banks over a storm drain. Sometimes dogs get hurt there. Steve gets hurt there.

I suppose that I should say that we had to put my dog down about a year and a half ago, but I still miss her and love her, and I still feel like I’ve been punched in the chest when I talk about her.

I also feel punched in the chest when I talk about this story, because Eggers does a really excellent job of catching the “voice” of a dog. He, Steven, rambles and talks much too fast, gets distracted, sees too much, understands everything, and then is off again in a flash. The use of short sentences is superb. There is such simplicity and clarity of emotion in them.

First lines

OH I’M A FAST DOG. I’m fast- fast. It’s true and I love being fast I admit It I love it. You know fast dogs. Dogs that just run by and you say, Damn! That’s a fast dog! Well that’s me. A fast dog. I’m a fast- fast dog. Hoooooooo! Hooooooooooooo!

My dog was part greyhound, and this is how she ran, tongue falling out of her mouth, eyes crazy, terrifyingly fast, and turning “like there wasn’t even a turn”. She’d run like she was going to bowl you over, but bank at the last second.

Last lines

Everyone in the life before was cranky, I think, because they just wanted to know.

Oddly– no, that’s not right: perfectly–, the fast dog talk reminds me of my sister’s best friend, my roommate, almost as much as it reminds me of my dog. She came home while I was thinking about this story, and I explained that I had read it, and that’s why I was crying and blowing my nose. She scrunched her face up and said that she doesn’t know why it makes my sister and I cry– it makes her happy. This is why she is the dog.

More quotes, spoiling:

I see in the windows. I see what happens. I see the calm held-together moments and also the treachery and I run and run. You tell me it matters, what they all say. I have listened and long ago I stopped. Just tell me it matters and I will listen to you and I will want to be convinced. You tell me that what is said is making a difference that those words are worthwhile words and mean something. I see what happens. I live with people who are German. They collect steins. They are good people. Their son is dead. I see what happens.

Damn, I’m so in love with all of this.

You just cannot know.

my claws grabbing at the earth like I’m the one making it turn.

They’re slow but they are perfect things, almost perfect.

When I see them I want to be in love with all of them at once. I want us all to be together; I feel so good to be near them.

We have to feel strong to make it.

I feel good. My eyes feel good, like I will see everything before I have to. I see colors like you hear jet planes.

You should do this sometime. I am a rocket.

I want deeply for these twins

After I died, so many things happened that I did not expect.

I wanted him to be happy. I wanted the squirrels to jump and be happy as we dogs were. But they were different than we were, and the man who threw me to the river was also different. I thought we were all the same but as I was inside my dead body and looking into the murky river bottom I knew that some are wanting to run and some are afraid to run and maybe they are broken and are angry for it.

The one big surprise is that as it turns out. G-d is the sun. It makes sense, if you think about it. Why we didn’t see it sooner I cannot say. Every day the sun was right there burning, our and other planets hovering around it, always apologizing, and we didn’t think it was G-d. Why would there be a G-d and also a sun? Of course G-d is the sun.