“We are the bright new stars born of a screaming black hole, the nascent suns burst from the darkness, from the grasping void of space that folds and swallows--a darkness that would devour anyone not as strong as we. We are oddities, sideshows, talk show subjects. We capture everyone's imagination.” ”—Dave Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
“Whatever I do, however I find a way to live, I will tell these stories. I have spoken to every person I have encountered these last difficult days...I speak to these people, and I speak to you because I cannot help it. It gives me strength, almost unbelievable strength, to know that you are there. I covet your eyes, your ears, the collapsible space between us. How blessed are we to have each other? I am alive and you are alive and so we must fill the air with our words. I will fill today, tomorrow, every day until I am taken back to God. I will tell stories to people who will listen and to people who don't want to listen, to people who seek me out and to those who run. All the while I will know that you are there. How can I pretend that you do not exist? It would be almost as impossible as you pretending that I do not exist.”—Dave Eggers, What Is the What
“There's nothing to be gained from passive observance, the simple documenting of conditions, because, at its core, it sets a bad example. Every time something is observed and not fixed, or when one has a chance to give in some way and does not, there is a lie being told, the same lie we all know by heart but which needn't be reiterated.”—Dave Eggers
“I cannot count the times I have cursed our lack of urgency. If I ever love again, I will not wait to love as best as I can. We thought we were young and that there would be time to love well sometime in the future. This is a terrible way to think. It is no way to live, to wait to love.”—Dave Eggers, What is the What
“4. Actually, many of you might want to skip much of the middle, namely pages 239-351, which concern the lives of people in their early twenties, and those lives are very difficult to make interesting, even when they seemed interesting to those living them at the time. ”—
When Famous Authors Pick Up A Brush...Or a Shotgun
In between creating great literary works, these authors also found the time to create some pretty decent art too. Urgh, as if I didn’t feel guilty enough about my Mad Men boxset marathon.
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
Genre: 21st Century Non-fiction
I thought about giving this book a pass score, but this novel was highly, highly, highly recommended to me, and so I thought maybe my poor opinion of this novel might be reflective of my high expectations that were not reached. I settled for a neutral score.
This non-fiction story is a portrayal of a family of six after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and depicts how they overcame many trials after having their lives destroyed by the destruction of the natural disaster. Tied into the story are explanations of Islam (many Americans have preconceived and incorrect notions of the religion) and what it’s like for the Zeitoun family to be Muslim in post-9/11 America.
Let’s begin with my first dislike with this novel (there are many, so feel free to stop here if you don’t enjoy mini-rants). I hated the way the character Zachary is treated in this story. Zachary is Kathy Zeitoun’s first child from a failed marriage. After converting to Islam, she married Abdulrahman Zeitoun and had three more daughters.
In the beginning of the novel, Eggers tries to paint the picture of family life in the Zeitoun household. All of his time was spent focused only on the girls—how they get ready for school, how astute and keen the eldest daughter is, and how they dote on characters in the movie Pride and Prejudice. One sentence is used to describe how Zachary gets to school: he gets ready with his friends.
Psh. Yeah, right. I feel like Eggers was trying to pull something off with that one. The kid is fifteen years old, and whereas his sisters get a ride to school with their mother, Zachary is apparently left to fend for himself for breakfast, getting ready, and for a ride. I couldn’t help but feel like this family was treating Zachary unfairly because his father was not Abdulrahman (referred to as Zeitoun). I felt incredibly uneasy by the way Eggers was depicting the way they treated their son. At one point, Kathy even referred to her oldest daughter as “our first born,” which confused me greatly—wasn’t Zachary their first born? Okay, I get that their daughter was their first born together, but if Zeitoun was supposed to be Zachary’s replacement father, I think such a denial of him is not only offensive, but of poor character. Again, I felt sick to my stomach to the point of disgust at the idea that Zachary was shunned from this family and that a mother and father could be so selfish and judgmental.
It doesn’t end there. The daughters are continually mentioned throughout the novel, whereas Zachary has but one sentence at the end describing how after high school he was living with friends and working at Subway. Okay, that seems pretty normal for an eighteen year old. But what really got me riled up was the fact that the three daughters had trust funds so they could attend college without worry. Where was Zachary’s trust fund? I have a really hard time believing he chose to work at Subway versus getting a free ride in college. My assumption is that he had no trust fund.
After doing some research on the family, I discovered their foundation called the Zeitoun Foundation. On the website is a picture of their entire family minus one person: Zachary. This was yet another disturbing piece of evidence of this family’s rejection of someone who couldn’t help who he was born to. Needless to say, I have very little respect for Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun. I hope that my view into their family affairs that was portrayed in Zeitoun is grossly misconstrued for the sake of Zachary and his well-being.
This may be my longest review yet. Keep going if you can stand it.
Now for my other issues with this novel. Eggers’ writing style is annoying, to say the least. While it’s good that he was trying to shed light on Islam and how many Americans confuse the religion for terrorism and the likes, he was way too pushy with the matter. I seriously felt at times that he was trying to convert me. I would have much preferred the facts and then for me as a reader to pass my own judgment, rather than having it shoved down my throat.
Same goes for the way Eggers portrayed Zeitoun. If Eggers had just given me a clear and unadulterated picture of his character and his reaction to Hurricane Katrina, I would have felt more attached to him as a character. Instead, the same thing was happening: I was being told, over and over again, that Zeitoun was a helluva guy: trustworthy, strong, and mistreated. I was left no room to make my own judgments. I felt like I was being told he was a great guy, but never seeing it for myself. Bottom line is, I just couldn’t find my place as a reader in the story.
Like all my reviews, these are just the opinions of one person. My background, upbringing, and lifestyle have a lot of do with the way I feel toward certain things. There are many people who would love this novel. The person who recommended this to me obviously loved it. But for me, it was far too maddening to recommend it to anyone.
Gut begonnen #19
Du sitzt im Kino und wartest darauf, dass die Vorschauen beginnen, während du einem Kratzen hinten im Hals nachspürst und dich dabei katzenhaft und gequält fühlst. Du erkundest deine Kehle so gut du kannst mit dem Zungenansatz und fragst dich währenddessen, was die Deutschen von den Koreanern halten und umgekehrt. Du weißt im Großen und Ganzen, was Amerikaner von Deutschen halten (kompliziert) und was Amerikaner von Koreanern halten (da haben wir keine besonders ausgeprägte Meinung), aber du hast keine Ahnung, was die Deutschen von den Koreanern halten. Du vermutest zunächst, dass beide wahrscheinlich nicht viel übereinander nachdenken. Dann fällt dir ein, dass jeder irgendeine Meinung über Deutschland hat, woraus du folgerst, dass die Koreaner wahrscheinlich genauere Vorstellungen von den Deutschen haben als andersherum. Denken nun aber die Deutschen viel über die Koreaner nach?
Dave Eggers: Was die Koreaner von den Deutschen halten. Aus: Short Short Stories. Penguin, London 2005. Die deutsche Übersetzung nicht nur des Beginns der obigen kurzen Kurzgeschichte stammt von Ulrike Wasel und Klaus Timmermann und ist im Auswahlband The Best of McSweeney’s, herausgegeben von Dave Eggers (Köln 2008) erschienen.