Wednesday, 21 December 2011

YOU SHALL KNOW OUR VELOCITY by Dave Eggers


I was excited about this book, because I love Dave Eggers. I love his first book, the more-or-less memoir, A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS, and his account of a real life in Sudan, WHAT IS THE WHAT. And oh, how I love his website, MCSWEENEYS. If you have never heard of that last, and if you have a dull desk job, you must most assuredly click on it. It has saved me from many a temping hellhole.

YOU SHALL KNOW OUR VELOCITY is Eggers first novel, and god it shows. A good novel is in here somewhere, and is just screaming to be let out. The book tells the story of a pair of friends who decide to travel around the world, in just a week, personally disbursing a large sum of money to the poor. The reasons for this are mysterious, and I am afraid will remain so, as I gave up long, long, before the end.

There were some funny bits, as here, where they are struggling to get a connection from Senegal to Greenland.
I'd always assumed, vaguely, that the rest of the world was even better connected than the US, that passage between all countries outside of America was constant and easy – that all other nations were huddled together, trading information and commiserating, like smokers outside a building.

However, overall, this faux naif evocation of international travel was annoying, as were the attempts to 'help' the poor. The mystery about their reasons was at first engaging and then just irritating. In addition, it was all madly overwritten. Try this description of an ordinary glass of water:
The sunlight over the clerk's shoulder was white and planed, and when he poured us glasses of water it was clearer than any water I'd ever seen. It was the unadulterated soul of the world.

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