He’s handsome, talented, rich (I suppose—richer than me, anyway), critically acclaimed, a great humanitarian, a successful social entrepreneur, not to mention younger than me by more than a decade, and curly-haired, too, so, by all rights, I really should despise him.
I was completely prepared to dismiss his best-seller, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, especially since it was a best-seller, on the grounds that it was way too po-mo and flashy, but when I read it, once I got past the introductory stuff, I couldn’t help but fall in love with both him and his brother and the way Eggers wrote about them.
I thought What is the What, his semi-fictionalized (I guess) autobiography of a lost boy from Sudan, was really powerful and compelling, and I wasn’t even bothered by the business that rankled some critics of his seeming to co-opt a story and voice that wasn’t his.
Today I finished—basically in a single sitting—his latest book, Zeitoun, and if I didn’t hate his talent and success before, I really should now. The book completely blew me away, so much so that there I am, weeping silently on the bus as I read the last few pages of the story and the acknowledgements afterwards.
In recounting the tale of one man’s experience, Eggers manages to address these huge social issues, indicting the Bush administration’s handling of Katrina as well as the “war on terror” without being pedantic, heavy-handed, or even really very political. You see the human scale of the tragedy, but that’s what’s makes it larger-than-life.
Perhaps above all, it’s a love story, between Zeitoun and his wife, Kathy, so that by the time he disappears from her in the post-storm storm you’re as crazy-scared as she is while mourning their loss and the loss of your own country and you’ve even managed to forget to keep hating Dave Eggers all over again.