Readersforum's Blog

February 12, 2013

A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers – review

A-Hologram-for-the-KingDave Eggers elegantly dissects the outsourcing of the American Dream

By Theo Tait

“I can do it any way you want,” Dave Eggers tells a reality TV producer in his debut, the memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. “I can do it funny, or maudlin, or just straight, uninflected – anything. You tell me. I can do it sad, or inspirational, or angry. It’s all there, all these things at once, so it’s up to you – you choose, you pick.” In his relatively short career, Eggers has proved that he is indeed strikingly versatile, moving not just from funny to sad and back again, but from the wildest extremes of exhibitionism to total self-effacement, from navel-gazing to globalised humanitarian concern, from memoir to novel to oral history to children’s books. In his spare time, he has also been an influential literary impresario, founding McSweeney’s magazine and publishing house, and a successful child literacy campaigner.

His first book is still probably his most remarkable. AHWOSG, as he called it, tells the story of his parents’ deaths, within weeks of each other, and of how he raised his much younger brother while living a Generation X-er’s life in San Francisco. It is exhaustingly self-conscious, mannered and cute – the opening 40 pages of “rules and suggestions for enjoyment of this book” have not aged well – but it is also funny, far-sighted and fairly devastating. Most importantly, it loosed the Eggers voice on the world. It’s a voice that, a few years back, was suddenly everywhere in American fiction and journalism: whimsical, digressive, grandiose but ironic about it, experimental in a lighthearted way, with B-movie rhetoric but sincere feelings, and sophisticated discourse punctuated by chatty interjections – “oh” and “kind of” and “here’s the thing”. It’s comparable to David Foster Wallace’s voice, but more approachable: easier to follow, easier to imitate. And thanks partly to Eggers’ publishing concerns, it spread like wildfire.

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