oh dave. that's what i said in my head when i finished dave eggers' new novel you shall know our velocity. oh dave.
when i found out dave eggers was publishing his first novel through his literary journal mcsweeney's i kind of panicked: i scrambled to my computer and immediately bought one online from them.
i felt like it was so elusive, physically, as if, god help me, if i didn't by it now , i would never, ever (ever!) be able to read it at all and my reading life would be incomplete and forever marred.
i got the package the same week that it arrived at the bookstore. [ed. — that's for you thierry...]. but whatever. see guis' comments about u.s. price conversion into cdn$ below. c'est la vie.
point is, i wanted this book to be so much for me. i wanted it to speak to me. but to say exactly what, i couldn't really tell you. which coincidentally is what this novel is like; it wants to say so much. but what?
my heart broke for will, the main character, for his suffering in the world, for the knowledge (and his self-awareness) that his suffering is somewhat self-imposed. i ached during his futile quest. unclear. unattainable.
will had a bit of a windfall. he got bought out by a light bulb company because they wanted to use his image on their box. somebody took a picture of him changing a bulb or something. fluke. and then suddenly, not too much later, his best friend jack is dead. accident. out of these two events is born a bizarre quest to use the money (or lose the money) to charity, to an ultimate goodwill. of his own choosing. there's the catch. will was unable to save jack with the money so he will save others. his need need to make a difference is not hard to figure out. but i guess the question is: does it work? does flying around the world with your other best friend (name of hand, no that's the characters actual nickname, that's actually what they call him throughout the book) giving out money somewhat arbitrarily to people you have decided need it, does it ease the pain of being unable to save your best friend, crushed in this car by a crazy truck driver?
there are beautiful passages in this novel. and it has that special dave eggers voice and sense of humour. and it does seem as if will is getting to a place of peace and a small amount of experience and something close to wisdom by the end of the novel as he accepts the world around him as it is; imperfect.
and just when you think, "hey, this all might work out for the poor bastard", you remember: he dies. oh sorry! did you think that was a secret? well, it's not. he tells us on the first page. cleverly disguised as the front cover.
i'm a bit pissed off about that. i mean yeah, ok...sure breaks the rules a bit. i haven't made up my mind about this book yet. i know there actually are layers that i'm not bothering to explore yet. is it crazy that a person who loves dave eggers' voice so much in a.h.w.o.s.g. should find it loses it's beauty, (slightly, everso slightly) in fiction? but i will read this book someday again and that in itself is a high endorsement from me, sure, it's partially because what dave eggers produces is close to my heart and helps remind me that there's still a place for books and literature in the world today.
this book makes you travel a long, long way for where you end up and you know what? maybe that is the point after all.