Like everyone under 45 who wants to succeed as a writer I think about Dave Eggers. I too wanted to really dislike his first book, "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius," a memoir nominated for the Pulitzer that was number 1 on The New York Times bestseller list, about how Eggers, at 21, wound up raising his little brother after both his parents passed away of cancer. I've read the book twice. For perspective, even multiple movie viewing, single album a thousand times listened to, AGO visited three times in one month obsessive lovers of certain pieces of art like me don't often re-read books of non-fiction. That's cause a great yarn or a highly informative text doesn't generally require a second read. Eggers' first book is way more than a good yarn. It has moments of pure poetry. The kind of deep pools worth dipping back into.
A few years back, whilst I was in Japan, I learned of a popular literary journal, The Believer, and submitted a story or two to this magazine that turns out to fall under the umbrella of McSweeney's, the independent publishing house Eggers founded (I repeat: the independent publishing house he founded) (they didn't Believe, btw, but oh well). Have I mentioned yet that this guy was born in the 1970s and that he's not yet 40?
Steadily gaining curiosity, and still in Japan, amongst the four aisles devoted to English literature at the Doshisha University (where I taught) library, I found and read a book of short stories Eggers wrote called "How We Are Hungry." Not the least bit competitive I hoped it would be pretentious and terrible. It was honest and brilliant.
Then, three years ago he comes out with "What is the What," a fictional retelling of the real-life experiences of a Sudanese refugee, Valentino Achak Deng. Eggers wrote the book from Deng's perspective. Pretty damn impressive, if you ask me. Haven't read that one though, I have to admit.
What I did do last year was watch him on TED and was again rather taken with the lad. Turns out that in his spare time, when not writing Pulitzer nominated worthy books and publishing magazines (not to mention the movie scripts he wrote, "Away We Go," w and the upcoming "Where the Wild Things Are), Eggers likes to create literacy programs for children.
None of this is exaggerated. It's all true! Even Wikipedia says so.
But I tell you all this because Dave has got a new book out, "Zeitoun," which in typical Eggers fashion is packaged brilliantly. It's a non-fictional account of a Syrian-American (surname: Zeitoun) New Orleans resident and his experiences riding out Katrina. The NY Times review says that, "50 years from now, when people want to know what happened to this once-great city during a shameful episode of our history, they will still be talking about a family named Zeitoun."
I'll be buying the thing in hardcover. That's how talented I think this guy is. Thirty plus dollars worth. Ok, granted I'm using a gift card, but still.