Needs more “electric and hideous” — On How We Are Hungry by Dave Eggers

Another review that has been stewing in me for quite some time, whether I want it to or not, bah. This time, it’s overall Meh-ness that has been preventing me from putting this up. Oy, Dave Eggers, I’ve had my not-so-happy experiences with his stuff — basically, I don’t get him, [there’s an Eggers clique, a memo I didn’t get I’m sure]. This short story collection How We Are Hungry was the last chance between us. I’m predisposed to liking short fiction, and if he and I didn’t work with this book, we’d be over forever. No pressure, really.

And so here’s what happened when I finally did get to read him — half the time, still scowling, half the time collecting beautiful prose:

  • From “Another” — I was alone and reckless and both passive and quick to fury. It was a beautiful time. Everything electric and hideous. I shall call upon these words at opportune times.
  • From “The Only Meaning of the Oil-Wet Water” — Was she in any way saddened by the predictability of the outcome? Was it unromantic? She decided that it was not. Sex and things like sex — things people pretend they regret — weren’t about a dcision made in a heated moment. The decision is made when you leave the house, when you get on a plane, when you dial a number.
  • From “After I Was Thrown in the River and Before I Drowned,” which I suspect was told in the point of view of Doug from the Up movie — 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.

And I’m cutting to chase, let this not be a waste of time — because there are other books I want to talk about, good books, gasp in the middle of crowded room kind of good: The stories in these collection were not bad. I liked a lot of them, but a part of me won’t relent to loving them wildly. There were a lot I didn’t like, but I suppose that’s okay. You know? Really. The book? It’s not bad. It all didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. It’s okay, I guess.

I will try my best to never read Dave Eggers ever again, though.

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7 comments

  1. I’ve had my ups and downs with him too. I loved Zeitoun and What is the What but w as super disappointed with The Wild Things and I read one of the short stories and while I appreciated the great prose it just didn’t gel for me.
    If you want to renew your respect for him then listen to him talk on TED.

  2. Don’t worry – the memo never reached me either. Probably sent at the same time as the one about there being cake (sorry – stupid circuitous reference to Sloane Crossley, another author who I seem to be one of the few people on earth not to get.)

    1. So many people on Earth that I do not get. Some, like Eggers, are just more visible and obnoxious-ish than others, so, well, he’s more grating. Maybe I’m really biased against what he stands for? Or maybe he really doesn’t touch something in me? Or maybe, well, I’ll stick to that bit about the memo!

  3. Writing about “meh” books is such a difficult experience. The only experience I have with Eggers is with his movies—Away We Go, which I totally loved, probably because I love John Krasinski, and Where the Wild Things Are, which I didn’t love and seemed like it aiming to be a quirky hipster film favorite. I get that “I want to be king of the indie scene” vibe from his stuff. I do want to read Zeitoun, though.

  4. […] How We Are Hungry, by Dave Eggers. […]

  5. I love this review – especially, “gasp in the middle of a crowded room good.” I have that relationship with short fiction a lot. I’ll love half of the stories, or a third, but I won’t be able to put my finger on loving the book as a whole. I won’t be riveting or stewing for days afterwards (or I will trying to figure out what didn’t work).

    I searched How We are Hungry on wordpress and got you. This is my first Eggers’ book as he’s been talked about a lot lately – press wise, and the cover is, I’ll just say it, f-n rad. I’m quite enjoying the collection, minus the little stories which seem odd and unromantic. However, I do love McSweeney’s so maybe his editing skills are more than his writing skills. I’ll have to give him more than this shot of stories to really see how I feel.

    Thanks for this review, it was lovely.

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