Lit-urday: Something Eggers the Imagination
And someone's got to answer for all this … dysfunction.
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
11:00AM, Sat. Aug. 9, 2014
It's been a long week, and now you deserve to have one day when you can curl up with a good book – let's call it Lit-urday. And let's recommend that the newest creation from the lord of the McSweeney's empire (among other things) will meet the "good book" parameters you're looking for right now.
Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?
by Dave Eggers
Knopf, 224pp, $25.95
It happens so quickly.
Doesn't seem possible that Dave Eggers has a new book out already, so soon on the endpapers of the last opus we were treated to. But seeing is believing – especially in meatspace – and I've got the handsomely produced thing with its unwieldy title sitting right there on my bedside table.
Your Fathers, Where Are they? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? is, like Eggers' last major writerly outing, one helluva readable thing and an important work that asks questions many of us would like the answers to.
Note: No, I don't mean "asks questions" metaphorically. Also, the questions themselves, the ones asked in this new book, are as non-rhetorical as it gets.
Let me explain.
Let me explain by doing what a reviewer or critic or dude-telling-you-about-this-created-thing-he's-experienced is not supposed to do: By getting into the author's head. (As if I – as if anyone – had access, right? And so knew what the fuck we were talking about regarding the motivations and instigating thoughts, et cetera, of that author.)
So: Picture Dave Eggers in the shower. Not in any sexually charged NSFW way, please – although of course, unless he's some kind of freak, he'll be naked – and Eggers is a rather attractive fellow, sure – but just so he's in the shower, soaping up and standing beneath the vigorous flow of water and thinking about the sort of everything and nothing that any person might contemplate while in the same position.
And Eggers is thinking about the state of this world; and about a lot of the problems in this world; and he's wondering how the hell did things get this way in the first place and who's responsible for the irrationally extreme responses that exacerbate the problems and even cause new problems of their own. You know? Like, about sexual predators – merely alleged or otherwise. Like, about violent police-force overreaction – non-fatal or otherwise. Like, about the myriad ways that modern life – in the United States, specifically, although not all that exclusively – is fucked up in ways that are harmful to us all.
It would be great, thinks this Eggers I've constructed, if there were specific, high-status individuals in society who were directly responsible for this shit, and who could be taken to task for it all – or, at the very least, made to explain what the hell they were thinking in allowing this bad craziness to overwhelm our lives. But, of course, that's a wild-ass notion, a conspiracy-theory sort of thinking right there, and our man Dave knows better than to … but, wait: What if there was a different – a not-Eggers – guy? A thirtysomething guy who'd been traumatized, or at least felt that he'd been traumatized, as a youth and was still suffering the twistedness that such an experience visits upon a sensitive human mind? And this guy, who's maybe also somewhere on the twitchier part of the Aspberger's spectrum and possibly needs to be on meds for one further condition or another, decides that he's damn well going to get the answers to those questions about the seriously fucked-up state of the world as he's personally lived it?
And then does so by kidnapping some people he thinks are responsible individuals – an astronaut, a state senator, a cop – and, while he's got them chained up in separate bunkers in an abandoned military base, grilling them about the whys and wherefores of this mess we're in?
Note: I mean, whoa, right?
And Dave Eggers, being Dave Eggers – and by now finished with his shower, and all dried off and subsequently groomed in his familiar mirror, and sitting at his computer with, like,TextEdit or Google Docs or something similar open in front of him – doesn't just imagine such a guy and such a situation; he writes a new novel about it.
A new novel: All dialogue, as if it were a stage play. (Ah, it would be an excellent production!) A new novel that plays out so equally painful and hilarious that it takes a while for the deeper interactions of the questions to dawn on a reader's – at least this reader's – mind.
That's this: Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?, now out from Knopf.
So, yes, I can imagine Dave Eggers naked in the shower, although such a thought is respectably untitillating to a middle-aged cishet man such as myself. For that matter, I can imagine an intricately choreographed ballet of dogs-with-human-heads, like Balanchine-trained multiples of that one dog from the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. What I can't imagine is you, whoever you are, not being glad that you read this book – for entertainment, for edification, for engaging (at least vicariously) with the serious societal architecture of this complex life.