Nat Friedman

14 February 2005

Boring Thoughts about Writers

Each time he writes a new book, I expect Dave Eggers to fall on his face and put out crap. My pessimism, I think, is rooted in those long “metanarrative” sections from A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (and in its title!), which barely worked, verging on showoffy-cutesy-clever. He has always come across as an author on the brink: on the brink of self indulgence, on the brink of a bad joke, of being too young, too ironic, or something. And I think he knows it.

But he’s put out two books since (You Shall Know Our Velocity and How We Are Hungry), and I’ve just finished the latest (Hungry) and I really liked it, though it had the same cringe-factor moments in it as the previous two.

I’m sure his books aren’t for everyone. I don’t think my dad could read them; I think he’d probably seem like a juvenile, crappier version of a serious writer to someone like my dad, who studied literature for decades, taught journalism at a university, etc.

The real point of this entry was to quote a paragraph I really liked but now I can’t find it. The gist of it was that flying is more common today than it was when my parents were growing up, and so it’s fairly normal (for my generation) to have friends whom you see sporadically, in random places around the world throughout the year. I identified.

So, while I’m typing here anyway, I’ll just note that I also read Neal Stephenson’s entire Baroque Cycle sometime last year, which was basically extended light entertainment with an educational twist, sort of like watching 3-2-1 Contact when I was a kid.

And it also had those cringe-inducing passages; so bad, they are difficult to even mention. Among the worst was a reference to a Microsoft marketing campaign, wherein one of the main characters, Jack Shaftoe, is walking along a dock, selecting galley slaves for his boat, and they’re all jeering at him, and one of them shouts out “Where do you want to row today?”

Get it?

I had to put the book down for a few days after that, but picked it back up in the end because the sunk costs were so high, I couldn’t bear not finishing it. And it was genuinely engrossing to see the world through Stephenson’s eyes; it made me want to visit Amsterdam again, anyway.

And, you know, it’s easy to be a critic.

. . .

Other Me-Oriented News

In other me-oriented news, it’s been over 4 months since I’ve had a cigarette, I beat Miguel 3-1 at chess tonight (though he punished me badly two nights ago), this web site is amazing, the BBC plugin for my beloved squeezebox is wonderful, I am in love with wikitravel and last week in two separate incidents people on the street recognized me from this web site.

“Are you” they asked.

Boy is that disorienting.

14 February 2005
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