I glimpsed Dave Eggers once, very briefly, as he flew out the door of the 826 Valencia project in San Francisco. I was there learning about what it takes to build a world class literacy focused NGO from the ground up. He was just dropping in to the project he had helped found. He was impressively tanned and good looking. The not quite movie star looks that American male novelists seem to require. I met Michael Chabon on the same trip, and he had the same kind of looks. Maybe it’s a requirement for being a writer in San Francisco, where pretty much everyone is notably good looking. I was mostly impressed, however, with Eggers political commitment. Both to a project that was clearly a labour of love, and to writing as a political force. But, despite the conviction that I must do so, I’ve never quite made it back to Eggers fiction. This Washington Post review reminds me why I must.
You have to go back to Steinbeck and Vonnegut to find a popular American novelist so willing to deploy his talents to such deliberately political ends. And as with those two authors, Eggers’s success rate is erratic. His 2012 novel, “A Hologram for the King,” about a middle-aged man trying to reboot his career in Saudi Arabia, was a careful and affecting lament for America’s economic decline. “The Circle” 2013, though, was a tedious lecture on corporate tech firms’ erosion of our privacy. “Your Fathers” falls roughly in between.
Eggers is still tinkering with a moral fiction that’s as flexible and subtle as any other kind, and at its worst it sounds like it’s being said by an angry op-ed columnist on a bender. Yet the dialogue-only structure and depth of feeling in “Your Fathers” are to its credit. You know what Eggers wants to say, he says it quickly, and he says it with a respectably righteous fury.
via Book review: ‘Your Fathers, Where Are They?’ by Dave Eggers – The Washington Post.
I finished The Hundredth Master of Ninja Assassin tonight! Woo-hoo! This story has been on my desktop (I keep all my work in progress on the desktop of my computer so I can’t escape it) for about a year now. I started it after reading The Cambist and Lord Iron by Daniel Abraham, a story with a very clear philosophical meaning, which is what I wanted to attempt with this story. I also wanted to write a ninja story, because my good friend Emily Jiang has been promising to write one for me and I got tired of waiting! I completed the stories last scene tonight. I think it might require another tinker in a few days, but fundamentally the story is now finished and just needs a polishing draft before I submit it.
I also wrote a chunk of a much newer story, Princess, Eaten by Beetles – Regurgitated earlier today. Progress on this story is painfully slow, partly because I’m writing in a very ornate and dense style. And partly because I’ve now run out of story. The Princes has been eaten, and now regurgitated, and I’m not sure what happens next. I’m sure something will occur to me. I think this story might have been influenced by my research into Bizarro fiction. I’ve certainly strayed well into the weird, and I’m thinking about moving back towards the real with my next story.
And now I have one more piece of writing to do before bed. But first…
The Guardian has information about an attempt to set-up an 826 Valencia style writing centre for children to London. I will follow this with interest, if I’m not too busy trying to make something similar happen in Leicester.
Nalo Hopkinson wants more problems and fewer prophesies in her stories.
I have been asleep almost the entire time since getting back to England, catching up with friends and grabbing snatches of news. The British parliamentary systems has fallen into disrepute, the economy is in freefall and Tarantino has been allowed to release a new film. I go away for a few days…
San Francisco was a tremendous experience. It has left me with a lot to think through, especially regarding what I learned from 826 Valencia. No doubt I will do some of that thinking in future posts. i also have a rather wonderous selection of SF tomes to devour courtesy of Borderlands.
In the podosphere:
The Sofanauts discuss Orson Scott Card. Opinions are not divided. Mundane SF also rears its head. My thoughts are on record here.