In a rising Saudi Arabian city, far from weary, recession-scarred America, a struggling businessman pursues a last-ditch attempt to stave off foreclosure, pay his daughter’s college tuition, and finally do something great. In A Hologram for the King, Dave Eggers takes us around the world to show how one man fights to hold himself and his splintering family together in the face of the global economy’s gale-force winds. This taut, richly layered, and elegiac novel is a powerful evocation of our contemporary moment — and a moving story of how we got here.
About Dave Eggers
Dave Eggers is the author of six previous books, including “Zeitoun,” a nonfiction account a Syrian-American immigrant and his extraordinary experience during Hurricane Katrina and “What Is the What,” a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award. That book, about Valentino Achak Deng, a survivor of the civil war in southern Sudan, gave birth to the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation, run by Mr. Deng and dedicated to building secondary schools in southern Sudan. Eggers is the founder and editor of McSweeney’s, an independent publishing house based in San Francisco that produces a quarterly journal, a monthly magazine (“The Believer”), and “Wholphin,” a quarterly DVD of short films and documentaries. In 2002, with Nínive Calegari he co-founded 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for youth in the Mission District of San Francisco. Local communities have since opened sister 826 centers in Chicago, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Ann Arbor, Seattle, and Boston. In 2004, Eggers taught at the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and there, with Dr. Lola Vollen, he co-founded Voice of Witness, a series of books using oral history to illuminate human rights crises around the world. A native of Chicago, Eggers graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in journalism. He now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children.
Joe Average, Just Waiting for Salvation - Dave Eggers’s New Novel, ‘A Hologram for the King’
The New York Times Book Review – June 13, 2012 (Excerpt)
The hero of Dave Eggers’s absorbing new novel “A Hologram for the King” is a penny-ante Job named Alan Clay, who finds himself in an absurd situation. Alan is deeply in debt, unable to pay his daughter’s college tuition and plagued by a scary golf-ball-size lump on the back of his neck. He’s betting everything on a last-ditch chance at a big payday, hoping he can sell the Saudi king, Abdullah, on a lucrative technology contract — a contract that depends on Alan’s going to a remote real estate development in Saudi Arabia and making an elaborate holographic presentation to the king, who may or may not even show up.
“Hologram” is studded with allusions to a rich array of literary classics, but Mr. Eggers uses a new, pared down, Hemingwayesque voice to recount his story, a voice that stands in sharp contrast to the baroque, hyperventilated one he employed in his dazzling 2000 debut book, “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.” Gone are the self-conscious commentary and postmodern pyrotechnics of “Genius.” Gone too are the less effective exercises in mimicry and pastiche featured in his 2002 novel “You Shall Know Our Velocity.”
Perhaps the remarkable act of ventriloquism that Mr. Eggers performed in his 2006 book “What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng,” based on the real life story of a Sudanese refugee, awakened him to the possibilities of a simpler, more straight-ahead brand of storytelling. In any case, he demonstrates in “Hologram” that he is master of this more old-fashioned approach as much as he was a pioneering innovator with “Genius.” In Mr. Eggers’s telling, the 54-year-old Alan is not just another hapless loser undergoing a midlife crisis. Rather, his sad-funny-dreamlike story unfolds to become an allegory about the frustrations of middle-class America, about the woes unemployed workers and sidelined entrepreneurs have experienced in a newly globalized world in which jobs are being outsourced abroad. [Read the full article...]
Review: ‘A Hologram for the King’ by Dave Eggers worth discussing
The Los Angeles Times Book Review – June 17, 2012 (Excerpt)
More than any other writer of his generation, Dave Eggers is a brand. The 42-year-old author is accomplished in many fields — he’s the founder of McSweeney’s, a successful independent publishing house and innovative literary journal that grew out of a still-vital humor website. He’s the head of the multi-city literacy nonprofit 826, which is partly supported by whimsical storefronts like the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store. For his work, he’s been awarded the TED Prize, the Heinz Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize Innovators Award. Yet inside all of that is Eggers the writer, who’s publishing his first novel of pure invention in a decade, “A Hologram for the King.”
Lately, when he’s not writing screenplays, Eggers has written bestselling books with a strong sense of social justice that are true or based in truth. The nonfiction “Zeitoun” (2009) is about a Syrian American who, despite valiant actions after Hurricane Katrina, wound up locked away in isolation; “What Is the What” (2006) is the novelized autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, a “lost boy” of Sudan.
There is no wronged man in the fictional departure “A Hologram for the King” — instead our protagonist is Alan Clay, a 54-year-old American whose circumstances are because of his own choices, or bad luck, or a destiny he failed to see coming. [Read the full article...]
Book World: In Dave Eggers’s ‘Hologram for the King,’ American dream is deferred
The Washington Post Book Review – June 27, 2012 (Excerpt)
Let us imagine that this novel — about a divorced, middle-aged business consultant trying to save himself from bankruptcy by landing an Internet technology contract with Saudi Arabia — had been written by someone not named Dave Eggers. Most readers, I suspect, would judge it a pleasant evening’s entertainment, easy and enjoyable to read, somewhat familiar in theme. Certainly 54-year-old Alan Clay seems yet another in a long line of defeated, messed-up American losers, hoping against hope for a bailout or even for some kind of redemption.
In years past, Alan was married to Ruby, an abrasive if good-looking activist who wants, in her loud, unpleasant way, to save the world. (Her ideal mate, Alan later decides, would have been Aristotle Onassis or George Soros.) Back then he worked as an executive at Schwinn, the long-classic bicycle manufacturer. But Alan was part of the team that decided it would be cheaper to build bikes in China instead of the United States. Unfortunately, once the Chinese learned how to produce a solid product, they undercut the American price point and put Schwinn out of business. [Read the full article...]
Wading into existential waters
The Chicago Tribune Printers Row – June 22, 2012 (Excerpt)
Sometimes Dave Eggers’ accomplishments off the page can eclipse his literary talent. He has launched an energetic network of tutoring centers for young readers and writers —including Chicago’s 826CHI — and established an innovative, socially engaged publishing empire, the San Francisco-based McSweeney’s. But Eggers’ soon-to-be-released seventh book, “A Hologram for the King,” is perhaps some of his most ambitious work yet.
His exhilarating, original memoir, “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius,” about taking care of his little brother after the cancer-related deaths of their parents, exploded onto the best-seller list when it was published in 2000. Segueing between his novels like “What is the What,” about the Sudanese refugee experience, and his more journalistic “Zeitoun,” Eggers has managed to build a career as a great storyteller who is politically engaged and empathic.
At a reading from the novel to support the efforts of 826CHI last year, I was prepared to be emotionally moved by Eggers’ story and was astonished to hear the wry — but never ironic — wit, the distinctive voice that had matured since “Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.” Eggers understands the pressures of American downward-mobility, and in the protagonist of his novel, Alan Clay, has created an Everyman, a post-modern Willy Loman. [Read the full article...]
Desert Pitch - ‘A Hologram for the King,’ by Dave Eggers
The New York Times Book Review – July 19, 2012 (Excerpt)
Where is our new-millennium Norman Mailer? It’s startling, 50 years on, to look back at the work of Mailer in the 1960s — from “The Presidential Papers” to “The Armies of the Night” — and see such unabashed ambition, such reckless audacity and such a stubborn American readiness to try to save the Republic from itself and bring it back to its original promise. Mailer’s very titles — “Advertisements for Myself,” “An American Dream” — told us he was on a mission, committed to the transformation of country and self, and even as he gave himself over to unremittingly private (and epic) meditations on God, the Devil, cancer and plastics, he was also determined to remake the civic order. He ran for mayor of New York City, he tried his hand at directing movies and in 1955 he helped start an alternative weekly known as The Village Voice. Part of the exhilaration of Mailer was that he cared so ravenously even when he failed; he was shooting for the moon even when he shot himself in the foot.
Dave Eggers comes from a much more sober, humbled, craft-loving time, and his latest novel is the opposite of a failure: it’s a clear, supremely readable parable of America in the global economy that is haunting, beautifully shaped and sad. But for all the difference between their generations, you can feel in Eggers some of the hunger, the range and the unembarrassedly serious engagement with America and its ideals that gave Mailer’s work such force. Eggers asserted his bravado — along with some tonic self-mockery — in the very title of his first book, “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” (a title of which Mailer would have been proud); he followed it up with a very different kind of book, a novel, “You Shall Know Our Velocity,” about the impenitent determination of two young Americans to travel the world giving money away. Yet even as he has written seven substantial books in 12 years, Eggers has also established his own publishing house, bristling with attitude and backward-looking invention. He’s started two magazines whose names (Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern and The Believer) openly declare their interest in homemade whimsy and optimism — or, you could say, in the past and in the future. He’s established nonprofit writing and tutorial centers across the country and, in his spare minutes, helped write two feature movies, “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Away We Go.” [Read the full article...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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