a week passes quickly

I can’t believe a week has passed since I last wrote an entry here. It’s weird how time compresses and before you know it a passel of days have trooped past you towards multiple sunsets.

I saw a bunch of cool documentaries at the Film Fleadh: Goat Walker, and Ässhäk, Tales from the Sahara, as well as the Siberian folk story, Bride of the Seventh Heaven. The German animated film, Inspector Derrick was good fun, and Zang Yimou’s emotional operatic vision, Hero, ended up being much better than I first thought.

During the week I finished Starfish, by Peter Watts, as well as a short novel by Jonathan Lethem called As She Climbed Across the Table. This is part of my push to clear some spaces on my “to read” shelf, and I’m pleased with my pace at the moment. But, as I’ve experienced before, these spurts of book-reading are usually followed by fallow periods when I don’t have the chunks of time to devote to reading. It would help if I didn’t continue to buy more books…

Last night, as part of the two-week Galway Arts Festival, I went to a talk by Dave Eggers. It was a funny and interesting event, and I’m glad I made the effort to attend. Eggers wrote A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which has to come tops as the most grandiose title for a novel. It’s semi-autobiographical, and I picked up a copy yesterday and got the man to sign it to me. I’ve read a bit of it already and I reckon I’ll enjoy it. Eggers, from what I can see, is the kind of writer who constantly interrogates the form and content of a novel–for instance there is a large notes and index section at the back of the book that was added for the UK paperback edition. There have been several editions of the book in the USA: in some material was added, then taken out, then other notes included, etc. Eggers challenges that novels, or texts, must be static, and takes a self-reflexive stance towards them.

At the event Eggers read some of his short stories, most of which were very brief, but utterly amusing. Eggers favours a surrealist humour that replicates how the minds meanders and ruminates over ideas to end up with in a bizarre place with nothing to reference the original starting point except the trail of disjointed thoughts.

As he was signing my book I mentioned to Eggers that in the selection of material he read he seemed to favour the present tense. He frowned in consideration and said he hadn’t noticed, but that it may be a product of the only training he’s had in writing: journalism courses at college.

Apart from his own writing, Eggers has a crusader’s zeal to change the world. I’m impressed with what he’s accomplished already.

For instance he helped set up 826 Valencia in San Francisco, which brings writing mentoring programmes to children in the area. Nearly two weeks ago the New York branch, 826 NY, was set up in Brooklyn. There’s always a bizarre element in anything touched by Eggers: The SF locale has a shop for Pirates, and the NY outfit has a superhero’s supply store. Just in case you’re looking for a place on the East Coast of the USA where you can get your next cape fitted.

Then there is the publishing company started by Eggers: McSweeneys. It publishes the books, and journals that pour from his other projects.

In one of those bizarre coincidences that makes you realise how small and connected the world is, I noticed that Jonathan Lethem–whose book I read completely by random yesterday–had one of his books published by McSweeneys. It’s called This Shape We’re In.

Eggers has created a legacy of work that anyone would be grateful to achieve. It’s inspiring because I don’t think that Eggers is more marvellous than the ordinary Joe on the street..

The difference is that he has a vision and he pursues it.

That’s what I plan to do.


  • brendan

    Not bad atall atall… at first I wasn’t fond of all the self-referential stuff, but he managed to work it in fairly well with the narrative. It’s almost as though he’s allowing the 90’s, Gen-X, “hyuh, whatever” mentality in the door in order to strangle it quietly, which is fine by me. The end result is a fine, moving book and after putting it down I was more mindful of his thoughts on “the lattice” and how people are interconnected than any of the self-referential flummery. There are some brilliant bits of writing in there too, no contest.The McSweeney’s site looks good too, which reminds me, have you checked out Paul Ford’s ftrain? Quite a uniquely put together site with plenty of writing about many different things.

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